Blake's work focuses on genome-scale studies of RNA and components of RNA silencing pathways, emphasizing plant reproductive biology and the evolution of plant small RNAs. Blake has been involved with next-generation DNA sequencing since its earliest days, and he has developed a number of applications of this technology, including computational methods, that have had a deep impact on plant genomics.
With many collaborators, the Meyers lab has pioneered genomic analysis of small RNAs and their targets, working with “next-gen” sequencing technologies nearly since their invention. Their work with next-gen sequencing stretches back to ~2001, when Blake was funded by the NSF to apply “MPSS” to the analysis of gene expression in Arabidopsis. This led to the development in the Meyers lab of the first publicly-accessible browser for next-gen data. After moving to the University of Delaware in 2002, his lab continued to develop the application to mRNA and small RNA analyses of first MPSS, then 454, and finally the still-current Illumina SBS sequencing. In 2005, with collaborator Pam Green, his lab was the first to perform large-scale, genome-wide analysis of small RNAs, and in 2008, the Green and Meyers labs co-developed a new and widely adopted method for the genome-wide analysis of cleaved mRNAs. The Meyers lab has extensively applied these methods to study plant genomes and their RNA products, and the lab continues to develop and apply novel informatics approaches for the analysis of RNA function in plants.
Specific areas of research include the use of these technologies to assess small RNA function and biogenesis in a broad range of plants, including Arabidopsis, maize, soybean, rice, and diverse other species. These data are being used to identify novel transcripts, to study small RNAs, microRNA targets, alternatively-polyadenylated transcripts, non-coding RNAs and gene silencing. The data are being analyzed to determine patterns of gene expression under different developmental conditions, for example to identify tissue-specific gene expression. More recently, work in the Meyers lab focuses on phased secondary siRNAs in plants, including their function, evolution, and biogenesis. They have also created and actively curate several databases with query & analysis tools to enable the use of these data for the scientific community.
The Meyers lab also studies disease resistance genes in plants, building on research Blake pursued before starting his own lab. These genes provide the first line of defense in many plant-pathogen interactions. In 2011, Blake’s lab published the first of many papers connecting these genes to small RNA regulation. This work describes sequence variation, function, and evolution in this class of genes, as well as that of the microRNAs that act as “master regulators” via direct and indirect targeting of many disease resistance gene families.
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