International Plant & Animal Genome Conference / PAG 32 • January 10-15, 2025  •  San Diego, CA, USA

Professor Emerita, Stanford University, USAPAG31 7 Virginia Walbot sm,

Wednesday, January 17,  8:45 AM / Atlas Ballroom

Talk Title:  "Building a Maize Anther"


Virginia Walbot is a fifth generation Californian with a passion for plants. Under the guidance of Peter Raven, she received a Stanford A.B. in Biology, then a Yale Ph.D. as an NSF predoctoral fellow working with Ian Sussex, and completed her NIH postdoctoral training with Leon Dure at the University of Georgia. As a young faculty member at Washington University-St. Louis she initiated studies of the plastid, mitochondrial, and nuclear genomes utilizing maize mutants and ancestors to study genome organization, rearrangement, and evolution. Subsequently at Stanford, the lab exploited Mutator transposons to clone maize genes and conduct lineage analysis, discovering that DNA methylation is the ultimate silencing mechanism controlling transposons. We built transient expression vectors to define regulatory elements in nuclear genes and discovered intron enhancement. Because exhibits unusual behaviors in male germinal cells (alternative splicing, frameshift translation to generate insertional transposase), we began analyzing anther development and discovered that hypoxia triggers germinal cell fate, that germinal cells program somatic specification by secreting a protein ligand, that fungal pathogen Ustilago maydis uses organ/tissue/cell-type effectors to alter maize cells, and that during the span of pre-meiotic germinal cell ontogeny through pollen shed there are unexpected gene expression patterns important for understanding the alternation of generations and selection on the plant genome. The lab’s productivity reflects the imagination and hard work of students, technical staff, and postdoctoral fellows with support from the NSF, NIH, Rockefeller Foundation, USDA, and EPA.

Walbot Lab:
Dahlia Project: