April 6-7, 2017 | Lincoln, Nebraska
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2017 NRIC speakers
portrait of Gary Stacey


Dr. Gary Stacey
University of Missouri
Application of high-resolution, functional genomic methods to study soybean root traits
1:40 - 2:10 pm, Friday 7 April 2017

“Systems biology is a comprehensive, quantitative analysis of the manner in which all the components of a biological system interact functionally over time.” Twentieth century biology focused primarily of single molecules (e.g., DNA structure) while 21st century biology seeks to understand the function of biological systems as a whole. The ultimate goal is a predictive view of biology, supplanting the older descriptive understanding. However, the promise of this new ‘predictive’ science has yet to be realized. For example, integration of dissimilar data such as proteomics, metabolomics, and transcriptomics, remains a formidable challenge. A major issue that compounds the problems of data integration is “signal dilution”, where studies average the response of whole tissues, obscuring cell-specific responses. Plants have complex regulatory networks to adapt to environmental changes and respond to various stimuli. While plant genomes may encode over 50,000 genes, many genes are expressed in only a few organs, tissues or cell types. However, it can be technically challenging to measure gene, protein or metabolite levels in a specific cell type. In order to respond to these challenges, we have applied methods to study soybean root function at a single cell level, which increases the sensitivity of our analysis and avoids signal dilution. We have applied these methods primarily to the study of the nitrogen-fixing soybean symbiosis but the approaches are generic and could be applied to any plant process.

Gary Stacey is Curators’ Professor and MSMC Endowed Professor of Plant Sciences and Biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His research focuses generally on molecular aspects of plant-microbe interactions, including studies of the beneficial legume-rhizobium symbiosis and plant-fungal pathogen interactions. He has also been instrumental in the development of genomic resources for the study of soybean. He has mentored 37 postdoctoral fellows and 25 Ph.D. and 7 M.S. graduate students. He has authored or co-authored more than 240 peer-reviewed research articles, 78 book chapters, and 13 patents. Two of his patents support the product OptimizeTM sold by Novozymes, Inc., to enhance rhizobial inoculant performance on soybean.  He has also edited or co-edited 16 books/reports. Six of these volumes were part of the Plant-Microbe Interactions book series that he co-founded. He is past senior editor of the journals Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions and Plant Physiology. He serves on various advisory/editorial boards and, from 2010 to 2013, served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions. He chaired the Public Affairs Committee of the American Society for Plant Biologists (ASPB) from 2006 to 2011. He is also currently the chair of the Department of Energy, Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee. In 2008, he founded a not-for-profit corporation, Missouri Energy Initiative (MEI; www.moenergy.org), and served as its Acting Executive Director until 2011. The Missouri Energy Initiative (MEI) is a resource network for building partnerships to move Missouri forward in terms of energy information and solutions.  In 1988, he was awarded a research fellowship by the Alexander Von Humboldt Stiftung and, during 1990, was awarded the title of van der Klaauw Chair of Molecular Biology at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands. In 1992, he was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creative Achievement at the University of Tennessee. In 2007, he was awarded the Distinguished Research Award in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri and, in 2013, received the Mumford Outstanding Faculty award from this college. In 2014, he was named a Curators’ Professor by the University of Missouri and that same year was identified by ASPB as one of the most cited authors in their society journals. In 2008, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 2010, he was elected a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology and, in the same year, Fellow of the American Society for Plant Biology.