Salk Institute
Joanne Chory
Professor and Director
Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology
Joanne Chory

Professor and Director
Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Howard H. and Maryam R. Newman Chair in Plant Biology


Joanne Chory, a Professor in the Plant Biology Laboratory, is interested in identifying the mechanisms by which plants respond to changes in their light environment. She and her colleagues use genetic, genomic and biochemical approaches in the reference plant, Arabidopsis,  to identify components of the phototransduction pathways, with emphasis placed on the events mediated through a family of red/far-red-light-absorbing receptors. Her laboratory has identified mutants in these photoreceptors and in nuclear-localized signal transduction components. Work in Dr. Chory's lab has also led to the discovery of a steroid hormone, brassinolide, that controls plant development in response to light, and has identified the plant steroid receptor and signaling pathway.

"Our lab is interested in identifying the mechanisms that plants use to respond to changes in their environment, particularly light. Our hope is that by discovering the molecular triggers that determine whether a plant matures into a spindly or robust specimen, we can contribute to efforts to increase crop yield and alleviate hunger."

Stuck where the seed germinates, plants have to make the best of their real estate. They rely on an arsenal of light-sensitive photoreceptors to decide when to germinate and flower to ensure the next generation of seeds. The Chory laboratory studies the signaling pathways plants use to detect changes in the sunlight that hits their leaves, not only when seasons change, but also when they grow in shady, crowded conditions. She and her group have assigned specific functions to a number of photoreceptors that regulate plant growth, identified components of the light signaling pathways, and shown that photoreceptors link hormone biosynthesis and signaling pathways within the plant to the local light environment.

Chory's laboratory has made significant contributions to the studies of three major plant hormones. Her team identified the steroid receptor and signaling pathway utilized by all flowering plants. They determined the structure of the receptor for a class of small hormones called cytokinins, which are utilized as herbicides. And they solved the long-running mystery of how plants produce auxins, which play essential roles in plant growth and development. Recently, Chory's laboratory showed that the major plant auxin is synthesized by a simple pathway from the amino acid, tryptophan.

Chory is also investigating how genetic variation in light-sensitive pathways in thale cress plants ensures that plants in northern latitudes are more sensitive to light than those in the sun-drenched Mediterranean. Using a reference strain of the plant, her team is assessing the contribution of almost every gene to light sensing and signaling in a variety of light environments. Knowing the full spectrum of genes that can be altered in the laboratory to affect an adaptive trait— and how this compares with the genes that affect plants' appearance in the wild—will advance understanding of how genes evolve together to make an efficient, coordinated network. This work is important not only to evolutionary biologists and plant breeders, but also to human biology, where similar experiments cannot be carried out. Chory's research may eventually enable researchers to develop plants that are particularly welladapted to challenging environments, boosting the yields of agricultural crops.

Lab Photo

Back row, left to right:
Javier Gallego, Greg Vert, Michael Nguyen, Kazu Nito, Zuyu Zheng

Front row, left to right:
Eirini Kaserli, Jon Hetzel, Ullas Pedmale, Sammi Wong, Hong Ren, William Chen, Lynn Artale, Joanne Chory, Jack Bolado, Jonathan Gilkerson, Tsegaye Dabi, Pedro Reis, Andrew Sinson, Carl Procko

Selected Publications

Li, L., K. Ljung, G. Breton, R.J. Schmitz, J. Pruneda-Paz, C. Cowing-Vitron, B.J. Cole, U. Pedmale, H.-S. Jung, L.J. Ivans, J.R. Ecker, S.A. Kay, and J. Chory. (2012). Linking photoreceptor excitation to changes in plant architecture. Genes Dev. 26: 785-790.

Belkhadir, Y., Y. Jaillais, P. Epple, E. Balsemao-Pires, J.L. Dangl, and J. Chory. (2012). Brassinsteroids modulate the efficiency of plant immune responses to microbe-associated molecular patterns. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 109: 297-302. Epub 2011 Nov15.

Won, C., SX. Shen, K. Mashiguchi, Z. Zheng, X. Dai, Y. Cheng, H. Kasahara, Y Kamiya, J. Chory, and Y. Zhao. (2011). Conversion of tryptophan to indole-3-acetic acid by TAAs and YUCs in Arabidopsis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. Epub 2011Oct 24.

Hothorn, M., T. Dabi, and J. Chory. (2011). Structural basis for cytokinin recognition by Arabidopsis thaliana histidine kinase 4. Nature Chem Bio. 7: 766-768.

Hothorn, M., Y. Belkhadir, M. Dreux, T. Dabi, J.P. Noel, I.A. Wilson, and J. Chory. (2011). Structural basis of steroid hormone perception by a membrane receptor kinase. Nature, 474: 467-471. Epub2011 Jun12

Woodson, J.D., J.M. Perez-Ruiz, and J. Chory. (2011). Heme synthesis by plastid ferrochelatase I regulates nuclear gene expression in plants. Curr. Biol. 24: 897-903. Epub 2011 May 24.

Jaillais, Y.*, Y. Belkhadir*, E. Balsemao-Pires, J.L. Dangl, and J. Chory. (2011). Extracellular leucine-rich-repeats as a platform for receptor-co-receptor complex formation. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 108:8503-8507. Epub 2011April 4.

Keller, M.M., Y. Jaillais, U.V. Pedmale, J.E. Moreno, J. Chory, and C.L. Ballaré. (2011). Cryptochrome 1 and phytochrome B control shade-avoidance responses in Arabidopsis via partially-independent hormonal cascades. Plant J. 67: 195-207. Epub 2011 May 25.

Jaillais, Y.*, M. Hothorn*, Y. Belkhadir, T. Dabi, Z.L. Nimchuk, E.M. Meyerowitz, and J. Chory. (2011). Tyrosine phosphorylation controls brassinosteroid receptor activation by triggering membrance release of its kinase inhibitor. Genes Dev. 25: 232-237.

Cole, B., S.A. Kay, and J. Chory (2011). Automated analysis of hypocotyl growth dynamics during shade avoidance in Arabidopsis. Plant J., 65: 991-1000. Epub 2011 Feb 2.

Todesco, M., S. Balasubramanian, T. Hu, P. Epple, C. Kuhns, S. Sureshkumar, C. Schwartz, M.B. Traw, C. Lanz, R.A.E. Laitinen, J. Chory, V. Lipka, J.O. Borevitz, J. Bergelson, J.L. Dangl, M. Nordborg, and D. Weigel. (2010). Natural allelic variation underlying a major fitness trade off in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nature. 465: 632-636.

Atwell, S., Y. Huang, B. Vilhjalmsson, G. Willems, M. Horton, Y. Li, D. Meng, A. Platt, A. Tarone, T. Hu, R.Jiang, W. Muliyati, X. Zhang, M.A. Amer, I. Baxter, B. Brachi, J. Chory, C. Dean, M. Debieu, J. de Meaux, J. Ecker, N. Faure, J. Kriskern, J.D.G. Jones, T. Michael, A. Nemri, F. Roux, D. Salt, C. Tang, M.B. Traw, D. Weigel, J. Borevitz, J. Bergelson, and M. Nordborg. (2010). Genome-wide association study of 107 phenotypes in Arabidopsis thaliana inbred lines. Nature. 465: 627-631. Epub 2010 March 29.

Ibanes, M., N. Fabregas, J. Chory* and A. Cano-Delgado*. (2009). Brassinosteroid signaling and auxin transport are required to establish the periodic pattern of Arabidopsis shoot vascular bundles. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106:13630-13635. (*co-corresponding authors).

Sellaro, R., U. Hoecker, M. Yanovsky, J. Chory, JJ Casal. (2009). Synergism of red and blue light in the control of Arabidopsis gene expression and development. Curr. Biol. 19: 1216-1220.

Loudet, O., T.P. Michael, B. Burger, C. Le Mette, T.C. Mockler, D. Weigel, and J. Chory. (2008). A zinc knuckle protein that negatively controls morning-specific growth in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:17193-17198. Epub 2008 Oct 29.

Moreno, J., Y. Tao, J. Chory*, and C.L. Ballaré*. (2009). Ecological modulation of plant defense via phytochrome control of jasmonate sensitivity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 106:4935-4940. (*Co-corresponding authors).

Geldner, N., V. Dénervaud-Tendon, U. Mayer, Y.D. Stierhof, D.L. Hyman, and J. Chory. (2009). Rapid, combinatorial analysis of membrane compartments in intact plants with a multi-color marker set. Plant J. 59: 169-178. Epub 2009 Feb 26.

Balasubramanian, S., C. Schwartz, A. Singh, N. Warthmann, M.C. Kim, J. Maloof, O. Loudet, G.T. Trainer, T. Dabi, J. Borevitz, J. Chory, and D. Weigel. (2009). QTL mapping in new Arabidopsis thaliana advanced intercross-recombinant inbred lines. PLoS One 4: e4318. Epub 2009 Feb2.130.

Li, X. Yu, A. Thompson, M. Guo, S. Yoshida, T. Asami, J. Chory, and Y. Yin. (2008). The Arabidopsis MYB30 is a direct target of BES1 and cooperates with BES1 to regulate brassinosteroid-induced gene expression. Plant J.

Savaldi-Goldstein, S., F. Pojer, T.J. Baiga, T. Dabi, C. Butterfield, N. Dharmasiri, G. Parry, A. Santner, Y. Tao, M. Estelle, J.P. Noel, and J. Chory. (2008). New auxin analogs with growth promoting effects in intact plants reveal a chemical strategy to improve hormone delivery. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:15190-15195. Epub 2008 Sept 25.

Michael, T.P., G. Breton, S.P. Hazen, T.C. Mockler, S.A. Kay, and J. Chory. (2008) A morning-specific phytohormone gene expression program underlying rhythmic plant growth. PLoS Biol. 6: e255. 2008 September 16.

Vert, G., C. Walcher, J. Chory, and J. Nemhauser. (2008). Integration of auxin and brassinosteroid pathways by auxin response factor 2. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105: 9829-9834.

Yu, X., L. Li, L. Li, J. Chory, and Y. Yin. (2008). Modulation of brassinosteroid regulated gene expression by jumonji domain-containing proteins ELF6 and REF6. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:7618-7623. Epub 2008 May 8.

Tao, Y., K. Ljung, J-L. Ferrer, F. Pojer, F. Hong, J. Long, L. Li, J. Moreno, M. Bowman, L. Ivans, Y. Chen, J. Lim, Y. Zhao, C. Ballare, G. Sandberg, J. Noel, and J. Chory. (2008). Rapid synthesis of auxin via a new tryptophan-dependent pathway is required for shade avoidance in plants. Cell. 133: 164-176.

Mockler, T.C., T.P. Michael, H.D. Priest, R. Shen, C.M. Sullivan, S.A. Givan, C. McEntee, S.A. Kay, and J. Chory. (2007). The DIURNAL PROJECT: Diurnal and circadian expression profiling, model-based pattern matching and promoter analysis. Cold Spring Harbor Symp. 72: 353-363.

Borevitz, J.O., S. Hazen. T.P. Michael, G. Morris, I. Baxter, T. Hu, H. Chen, J. Werner, M. Nordborg, D. Salt, S. Kay, J. Chory, D. Weigel, J. Jones, and J. Ecker. (2007). Genome-wide patterns of single-feature polymorphism in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 104: 12057-12062. Epub: 2007 July 12

Geldner, N., X. Wang, K. Schumacher, and J. Chory. (2007). Endosomal signaling of plant steroid receptor kinase BRI1. Genes Dev. 21: 1598-1602. Epub: 2007 June 19.

Koussevitzky, S*., A. Nott*, T.C. Mockler, F. Hong, G. Sacheto-Martins, M. Surpin, J. Lim, R. Mittler, and J. Chory. (2007). Signals from chloroplasts converge to regulate nuclear gene expression. (Article). Science. 316: 715-719. Epub: 2007 Mar 29. (Accompanying Perspectives) (*co-first authors).

Savaldi-Goldstein, S., C. Peto, and J. Chory. (2007). The epidermis both drives and restricts plant shoot growth. Nature. 446:199-202. (Accompanying News and Views).

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Awards and Honors

  • American Philosophical Society (2015)
  • Genetics Society of America Medal (2012)
  • Foreign Member, Royal Society, London UK (2011)
  • Foreign Associate, Académie des Sciences, France (2009)
  • Kumho Award in Plant Molecular Biology
  • Scientific American 50: Research Leader in Agriculture
  • L'Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science (N. America)
  • American Society of Plant Physiologists, Charles Albert Schull Award
  • National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research
  • Member, German National Academy of Sciences, 2008
  • Associate Member, EMBO (2006)
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2005
  • Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 1999
  • Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1998
  • Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1997

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