Academic Profile : Faculty
Wei Ma received his PhD in Plant Science at the University of Connecticut (USA). He did his postdoctoral training at Michigan State University (USA). In January 2018, he joined the faculty of School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. Research focus in his lab includes plant signal transduction, plant gene regulation, plant lipid metabolism, and protein engineering.
Research of my lab focuses on mechanistic understanding of gene regulation of plant oil biosynthesis and translation of knowledge gained from our research into benefits for agro-economy. Plant cells accumulate oil in the form of triacylglycerol (TAG) in their seeds as a main resource of carbon and energy for seedling development. Plant oils are not only essential for the human diet but also provide renewable feedstock for many industrial uses. Transcription factor, WRINKLED1 (WRI1) is a key regulator of plant oil biosynthesis. We show that post-translational modifications (PTMs), interacting partners, and regulatory domains (or motifs) of WRI1 are critical for its functions. For example, a C-terminal IDR3 domain (containing a PEST motif) affects the stability of AtWRI1. Removal of the IDR3-PEST motif or mutation of putative phosphorylation-sites in the IDR3-PEST motif increases the stability of AtWRI1, resulting in increased oil production. In addition, we have demonstrated that AtWRI1 interacts with 14-3-3s, a family of phosphopeptide-binding proteins. Co-expression of 14-3-3s with AtWRI1 increases AtWRI1-mediated oil biosynthesis as a consequence of boosted transcriptional activity of AtWRI1. We seek to establish an interactome of WRI1 through identification of the WRI1 interacting protein partners. We are interested in globally mapping binding targets for WRI1 via whole-genome chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-Seq) and DNA affinity purification sequencing (DAP-seq). My lab will also investigate combinatorial transcriptional regulation of fatty acid biosynthesis in oil crops, with a goal of identifying novel regulators that can be used to improve oil crops.
- Bioengineering-enabled Precision Farming: A Semi-closed Agri-food System
- Elucidating the molecular action of integrators of environmental signals to modulate plant metabolism
- From protein droplets to oil droplets: understanding the role of WRINKLED1 phase separation in the biosynthesis of vegetable oils
- Functional Characterization Of WRINKLED1 (WRI1) In Seed Oil Biosynthesis & Development And Development Of High Oil Crops
- Increasing production of plant oils: Identification of novel transcriptional regulators that control oil biosynthesis
- Towards a green future: improving urban farming under tropical weather conditions, for locally-grown vegetables of high quality