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Sainsbury Laboratory


Elliot Meyerowitz did his undergraduate work at Columbia University (A.B. in Biology, 1973), where he worked part-time in the laboratory of Cyrus Levinthal on combined microscopic and computational methods for tracing axons and dendritic trees in the nervous systems of the fish Poecilia formosa. His graduate work was in the Department of Biology at Yale University (Ph.D. 1977), where he worked in the laboratory of Douglas Kankel on the interaction of eye and brain development in Drosophila melanogaster, by use of genetic mosaics. From 1977 to 1979 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of David Hogness in the Biochemistry Department at the Stanford University School of Medicine, developing and using methods for the molecular cloning of genes from Drosophila in the early days of gene cloning and genomics. Since 1980 he has been a faculty member in the Division of Biology at the California Institute of Technology, where he served as Division Chair from 2000 to 2010, and where he is now George W. Beadle Professor of Biology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 2011 through 2012 he was, while on leave from Caltech, the Inaugural Director of the then-new Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University.

Among his honours are the Genetics Society of America Medal (1996); the International Prize for Biology, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (1997); the Lounsbery Award of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1999); the R.G. Harrison Prize of the International Society of Developmental Biologists (2005); the Balzan Prize (2006); the Dawson Prize in Genetics from the University of Dublin in 2013; and the Gruber Genetics Prize in 2018. He received honorary doctorates from the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon in 2007, and from Yale University in 2014. Professor Meyerowitz is past president of the Genetics Society of America, the International Society for Plant Molecular Biology, and the Society for Developmental Biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (he completed a term as a member of the Academy Council in 2009), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. He is a foreign member of the Royal Society, a foreign associate of the Académie des Sciences of France, and an Associate Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization.


Research Interests

The Meyerowitz laboratory has the goal of understanding the mechanisms of pattern formation in plant development, and the evolution of pattern formation, using both experimental and computational methods to test hypotheses. They concentrate on the shoot apical meristem and its derivative structures (primarily flowers), because this meristem is responsible for the development of the entire above-ground part of the mature plant, and utilizes a number of different pattern-forming processes that are as yet poorly understood. Their experimental organism is predominantly Arabidopsis thaliana, because of the ease with which genetic and molecular biological studies can be done using that model system, but the evolutionary work involves a number of other species of flowering plants.  Three current areas of research are mechanical responses of plants and plant cells, and the role of mechanical interactions between cells in pattern formation; feedbacks between cell wall synthesis, cell wall properties,  and the cell cycle; and large-scale evolutionary studies of tissue-specific gene expression patterns, as a way to assess the evolutionary rates and paths of evolutionary changes in the developmental control of gene expression.  In all of their work both computational modeling and experimental approaches are combined as a mode of hypothesis testing.

Recent Publications

Li, T., Yan, A., Bhatia, N., Altinok, A., Afik, E., Durand-Smet, P., Tarr, P.T., Schroeder, J.I., Heisler, M.G., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2019) Calcium signals in the plant stem-cell-niche and their role in initiating auxin transporter polarity. Accepted for publication (Nature Communications).

Eschweiler, D., Spina, T.V., Choudhury, R.D., Meyerowitz, E., Cunha, A., Stegmaier, J. (2019) CNN-based preprocessing to optimize watershed-based cell segmentation in 3D confocal microscopy images,  IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI'19) in press.

Tian, C., Wang, Y., Yu, H., He, J., Wang, J., Shi, B., Du, Q., Provart, N.J., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jiao, Y. (2019) A gene expression map of shoot domains reveals new regulatory mechanisms.  Nature Commun. 10: 141. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08083-z

Zhou, Y., Yan, A., Han, H., Li, T., Geng, Y., Liu, X. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2018)  HAIRY MERISTEM with WUSCHEL confines CLAVATA3 expression to the outer apical meristem layers. Science 361, 502-506. PMC ID: PMC6095697

Xu, Y., Prunet, N.E., Gan, E.-S., Wang, Y., Stewart, D., Wellmer, F., Huang, J., Jack, T.P., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Ito, T. (2018) SUPERMAN regulates floral whorl boundaries through control of auxin biosynthesis. EMBO J. 37, e97499. DOI:

Liu, T.L., Upadhyayula, S., Milkie, D.E., Singh, V., Wang, K., Swinburne, I, Mosaliganti, K., Collins, Z., Hiscock, T.W., Shea, J., Kohrman, A.Q., Medwig, T.N., Dambournet, D., Forster, R., Cunniff, B., Ruan, Y., Yashiro, H., Scholpp, S., Meyerowitz, E.M., Hockemeyer, D., Drubin, D.G., Martin, B.L., Matus, D.Q., Koyama, M., Megason, S., Kirchhausen, T. and Betzig, E.  (2018) Observing the cell in Its native state: Imaging subcellular dynamics in multicellular organisms. Science 360, 284. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1392

Spina, T.V., Stegmaier, J., Falcão, A.X, Meyerowitz, E. and Cunha, A. (2018) SEGMENT3D: A web-based application for collaborative segmentation of 3D images used in the shoot apical meristem. 2018 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI 2018) 391-395.

Stegmaier, J., Spina, T.V., Falcão, A.X., Bartschat, A., Mikut, R., Meyerowitz, E. and Cunha, A. (2018) Cell segmentation in 3D confocal images using supervoxel merge-forests with CNN-based hypothesis selection. 2018 IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI 2018) 382-386.

Mirabet, V., Krupinski, P., Hamant, O., Meyerowitz, E.M., Jönsson, H., and Boudaoud, A. (2018) The self-organization of plant microtubules in three dimensions enables stable cortical localization and sensitivity to external cues. PLoS Comput Biol 14(2): e1006011. PMCID: PMC5834207

Melnyk, C.W., Gabel, A., Hardcastle, T.J., Robinson, S., Miyashima, S., Grosse, I., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2018) Transcriptome dynamics at Arabidopsis graft junctions reveal an inter-tissue recognition mechanism that activates vascular regeneration. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA, 115, E2447-E2456. PMCID: PMC5878008

Landrein, B., Formosa-Jordon, P., Malivert, A., Schuster, C., Melnyk, C.W., Yang, W., Turnbull, C., Meyerowitz, E.M., Locke, J.C.W. and Jönsson, H (2018) Nitrate modulates stem cell dynamics in Arabidopsis shoot meristems through cytokinins. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115, 1382-1387.

Yang, W., Wightman, R. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2017) Cell cycle control by nuclear sequestration of CDC20 and Cdh1 mRNA in plant stem cells.  Molec. Cell 68, 1108-1119.

Caggiano. M.P., Yu, X., Bhatia, N., Larsson, A., Ram, H., Ohno, C., Sappl, P., Meyerowitz, E.M, Jönsson, H. and Heisler M.G. (2017) Cell type boundaries organize plant development.  eLife 2017;6:e27421 doi: 10.7554/eLife.27421. PMCID: PMC5617630

Prunet, N., Yang, W., Das, P., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jack, T.P. (2017) SUPERMAN prevents stamen formation and promotes stem cell termination in the fourth whorl of the Arabidopsis flower. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 114, 7166-7171. PMCID: PMC5502645

Willis, L., Refahi, Y., Wightman, R., Landrein, B., Teles, J., Huang, K.C., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jönsson, H. (2016) Cell size and growth regulation in the Arabidopsis thaliana apical stem cell niche. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 113, E8238-E8246, doi:10.1073/pnas.1616768113. PMCID: PMC5187701

Yang, W., Schuster, C., Beahan, C.T., Charoensawan, V., Peaucelle, A., Bacic, A., Doblin, M.S., Wightman, R. and Meyerowitz E.M. (2016) Regulation of meristem morphogenesis by cell wall synthases in Arabidopsis. Current Biology 26, 1404-1415. PMCID: PMC5024349

Tobin, C. J. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2016) Real-time lineage analysis to study cell division orientation in the Arabidopsis shoot meristem. Plant Cell Division Methods and Protocols, ed. M.C. Caillaud, Methods in Molecular Biology 1370, 147- 167. doi 10.1007/978-1-4939-2_12.

Gruel, J., Landrein, B., Tarr, P., Schuster, C., Refahi, Y., Sampathkumar, A., Hamant, O., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jönsson, H. (2016) An epidermis-driven mechanism positions and scales stem cell niches in plants. Sci. Adv. 2, e1500989. PMCID: PMC4846443

Provart, N. J., Alonso, J., Assmann, S. M., Bergmann, D., Brady, S. M., Brkljacic, J., Browse, J., Chapple ,C., Colot, V., Cutler, S., Dangl, J., Ehrhardt, D., Friesner, J. D., Frommer, W. B., Grotewold, E., Meyerowitz, E.M., Nemhauser, J., Nordborg, M., Pikaard, C., Shanklin, J., Somerville, C., Stitt, M., Torii, K. U., Waese, J., Wagner, D. and McCourt, P. (2016) Tansley Review, 50 years of Arabidopsis research: highlights and future directions. New Phytologist 209, 921-944. DOI: 10.1111/nph.13687 

Luo, C.J., Wightman, R., Meyerowitz, E.M., and Smoukov, S. (2015) 3D fibre scaffold as an investigative tool for studying the morphogenesis of isolated plant cells. BMC Plant Biology 15, 211 doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0581-7 PMCID: PMC4550058

Melnyk, C.W., Schuster, C., Leyser, O., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) A developmental framework for graft formation and vascular reconnection in Arabidopsis thaliana, Curr. Biol. 25, 1306-1318. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.03.032 NIHMSID 766222

Shapiro, B.E., Tobin, C., Mjolsness, E.M. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Analysis of cell division patterns in the Arabidopsis shoot apical meristem. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 112, 4815-4820. PMCID: PMC4403164

Kareem, A., Durgaprasad, K., Sugimoto, K., Du, Y., Pulianmackal, A.J., Trivedi, Z.B., Abhayadev, P.V., Pinon, V., Meyerowitz, E.M., Scheres. B., and Prasad, K. (2015) PLETHORA genes control regeneration by a two-step mechanism.  Curr. Biol. 25, 1017-1030. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.022

Nimchuk, Z.L., Zhou, Y., Tarr, P.T., Peterson, B.A., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Plant stem cell maintenance by transcriptional cross regulation of related receptor kinases. Development 142, 1043-1049. DOI: 10.1242/dev.119677. PMCID: PMC4360179

Melnyk, C.W. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Plant Grafting. Curr. Biol. 25, R183-R188. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.029

Zhou, Y., Liu, X., Engstrom, E.M., Nimchuk, Z.L., Pruneda-Paz, J., Tarr, P.T., Yan, A., Kay, S.A., and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2015) Control of plant stem cell function by conserved interacting transcriptional regulators. Nature 517, 377-380. doi:10.1038/nature13853 PMCID: PMC4297503

Sampathkumar, A., Krupinski, P., Wightman, R., Milani, P., Berquand, A., Boudaoud, A., Hamant, O., Jönsson, H. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2014) Subcellular and supracellular mechanical stress prescribes cytoskeleton behavior in Arabidopsis cotyledon cells.  eLife 2014;3:e01967 DOI: PMCID: PMC3985187

Qi, J., Wang, Y., Yu, T., Cunha, A., Wu, B., Vernoux, T., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jiao, Y. (2014) Auxin depletion from leaf primordia contributes to organ patterning.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 111, 18769-18774.

Wang, Y., Wang, J., Shi, B., Yu, T. Qi. J., Meyerowitz, E.M. and Jiao, Y. (2014) The stem cell niche in leaf axils is established by auxin and cytokinin in Arabidopsis.  Plant Cell 26, 2055-2067. PMCID: PMC4079368

Sampathkumar, A., Yan, A., Krupinski, P. and  Meyerowitz, E.M. (2014) Physical forces regulate plant development and morphogenesis. Curr. Biol.24, R475-R483.  PMCID: PMC4049271

Sampathkumar, A., Krupinski, P., Wightman, R., Milani, P., Berquand, A., Boudaoud, A., Hamant, O., Jönsson, H. and Meyerowitz, E.M. (2014) Subcellular and supracellular mechanical stress prescribes cytoskeleton behavior in Arabidopsis cotyledon cells.  eLife 2014;3:e01967 DOI: 


Distinguished Associate
Laboratory's Inaugural Director (Jan 2011-Dec 2012)
Professor Elliot  Meyerowitz

Contact Details

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street