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Mary Gehring, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
Whitehead Institute

Room WI-561C
617-324-0343 (phone)


Ph.D., Plant Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 2005
Postdoctoral Fellow, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Research Summary

Epigenetics refers to heritable changes in phenotype not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. In plants, animals, and fungi DNA methylation and chromatin structure are important components of the epigenome. The Gehring lab uses genomic, computational, genetic, and molecular biology approaches to study epigenomic reprogramming during reproduction, primarily focusing on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Recent research has shown that genome-wide DNA demethylation is critical for successful seed development in plants. We are pursuing an understanding of seeds at the epigenomic level from gamete differentiation through seed maturity by integrating data from genome-wide DNA methylation, RNA, and chromatin profiling experiments. A diverse array of genetic and genomic tools makes A. thaliana a powerful model system to understand the basic mechanisms of epigenomic reprogramming in the context of a whole organism. We are also interested in further understanding the fidelity of epigenetic inheritance from generation to generation and determining whether or not the epigenome is heritably altered in response to changing environmental conditions.

Selected Publications

  • Gehring M, Bubb KL, Henikoff S. (2009) Extensive demethylation of repetitive elements during seed development underlies gene imprinting. Science. Jun 12;324(5933):1447-51.
  • Gehring M, Reik W, Henikoff S. (2009) DNA demethylation by DNA repair. Trends in Genetics 25:82-90.
  • Gehring M, Henikoff S. (2007) DNA methylation dynamics in plant genomes. Biochim Biophys Acta. May-Jun;1769(5-6):276-86.
  • Gehring M, Huh JH, Hsieh TF, Penterman J, Choi Y, Harada JJ, Goldberg RB, Fischer RL. (2006) DEMETER DNA glycosylase establishes MEDEA polycomb gene self-imprinting by allele-specific demethylation. Cell. Feb 10;124(3):495-506.

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Last Updated: February 9, 2011