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John Fowler

John Fowler


Ph.D., 1994, University of California, Berkeley


Faculty of Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing


Office/Lab: Cordley 4071/4066
Phone: 541-737-5307/5295

Research Area

Plant cell and developmental biology.

Description of Research

My primary research interest is in the molecular mechanisms that govern cellular morphogenesis and development in plants.  Specifically, I am interested in how the regulation of two cellular processes – cell polarity and exocytosis – is integrated into developmental systems at the organismal scale.  My lab is currently using a variety of complementary techniques in genetics, cell biology, molecular biology and (more recently) bioinformatics and ‘omics-scale approaches to investigate these processes.  Our focus is on two models:  the root of Arabidopsis thaliana, including tip-growing root hairs and meristems, and the male gametophyte of Zea mays, including germinating pollen and the growing pollen tube.  Recently, we have focused on: 1) the role of the eight-protein exocyst complex, which is thought to be involved in vesicle trafficking and exocytosis, and its putative regulators (e.g., ROP GTPases); and 2) using ‘omics approaches to inform a system’s level understanding of pollen development and function.  Use of both dicot and monocot models helps insure that our work is relevant across the plant kingdom.


Images of plasmolyzed maize leaf cells, illustrating plasma membrane attachment to the surrounding cell wall.  Fluorescent images are of a Green Fluorescent Protein fusion that has been targeted to the cell's plasma membrane by a unique signal present in the maize ROP7 protein. 


New Pollen Tube Growth Video from the Fowler Lab

Time-lapse imaging of a recently germinated, growing maize pollen tube, over the course of 10 minutes.  Yellow corresponds to the fluorescence of the YFP-ROP2 fusion protein, which helps control the polarized growth of the cell, and is dynamically localized near the tube apex.  Blue corresponds to the autofluorescence of the pollen grain from which the pollen tube is growing. Imaging by Quinn DeYoung, an undergraduate, and Dr. Rex Cole, on a Zeiss LSM 780 microscope system at OSU’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing (http://cgrb.oregonstate.edu/core/microscopy-imaging/microscopy).


Research Group Members

Faculty Research Assistants/Associates

Zuzana Vejlupkova

Graduate Students

Matt Warman (PhD, expected 2020)

Undergraduate Research Students

Quinn DeYoung
Cesar Juarez

Undergraduate Lab Assistant

Matt Borchers
Quinn DeYoung
Peter de Roos


BI 211 Principles of Biology, Fall Term

MCB 555 Genome Expression and Regulation, Winter Term

Genetic Engineering and Crop Plants

In 2014, I was asked to serve on a College of Agricultural Sciences committee seeking to provide an academic, fact-based view of the current understanding of agricultural biotechnology.  This coincided with the vote in Oregon on 'GMO' labeling, and was intended to be useful information for voters in the state.  The committee was composed of scientists across a range of disciplines at OSU, and the five white papers produced by the committee are at http://agbiotech.oregonstate.edu/agbiotech/about.  The topics covered include not only the basic biology related to GMO's, but also food safety, how social benefits can be assessed, and how the topic relates to human values.

For clarity and evaluation of possible conflicts of interest, I provide a bit about my background and current position:

Counting my undergraduate, I have 30+ years of training in genetics and plant biology, and see myself as almost exclusively doing research in basic biological sciences.  My salary is paid completely by the University – I get no salary from outside grants or contracts.  My lab has been funded by grants from federal agencies – the National Science Foundation, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.  I do not have any patents, nor do I see any likely to come in the future, based on my research area.  I have never received any funds from a corporation for myself, my projects, my travel or my lab.

To the best of my memory, my connections to corporations are minimal, and, as follows: I have several friends and scientific colleagues that work in seed/biotech companies (e.g., Pioneer Dupont).  I have one ongoing (but mostly dormant at this time) collaboration with Pioneer, in which they supplied my lab with resources – specifically, lines of maize harboring particular mutations – that allowed us to deduce some genetic function for certain genes (publication at http://www.genetics.org/content/165/4/2137.abstract).  If this collaboration were to be ended, it would not be a major disruption to my lab's current research.  Part of my lab's work is on maize (corn), a major crop, but I am interested in it primarily as a model for discovering new biological knowledge, not as a focus for 'crop improvement'.

Related Links

Rop Gene Nucleotide Alignment

Functional Genomics of Maize Gametophytes Project (http://www.maizegametophyte.org/ )


Freeling M, Scanlon MJ, Fowler JE (2015).  Fractionation and subfunctionalization following genome duplications: mechanisms that drive gene content and their consequences.  Curr Opin Genet Dev. 35:110-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2015.11.002.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959437X15001173

Peremyslov VV, Cole RA, Fowler JE, Dolja VV (2015). Myosin-powered membrane compartment drives cytoplasmic streaming, cell expansion and plant development.  PLoS ONE 10, e0139331 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0139331

Cole RA, McInally SA, and Fowler JE. Developmentally distinct activities of the exocyst enable rapid cell elongation and determine meristem size during primary root growth in Arabidopsis. BMC Plant Biol 14, 1594 (2014).

Chettoor AM, Givan SA, Cole RA, Coker CT, Unger-Wallace E, Vejlupkova Z, Vollbrecht E, Fowler JE, Evans M. 2014. Discovery of novel transcripts and gametophytic functions via RNA-seq analysis of maize gametophytic transcriptomes. Genome Biol. 2014 Jul 31;15(7):414. [Epub ahead of print] link: http://genomebiology.com/2014/15/7/414/abstract

Li L, Eichten SR, Shimizu R, Petsch K, Yeh CT, Wu W, Chettoor AM, Givan SA, Cole RA, Fowler JE, Evans MM, Scanlon MJ, Yu J, Schnable PS, Timmermans MC, Springer NM, Muehlbauer GJ.  Genome-wide discovery and characterization of maize long non-coding RNAs.  Genome Biol. 2014 Feb 27;15(2):R40. doi: 10.1186/gb-2014-15-2-r40. http://genomebiology.com/content/15/2/R40

Vukašinović N, Cvrčková F, Eliáš M, Cole R, Fowler JE, Žárský V, Synek L. 2014. Dissecting a hidden gene duplication: the Arabidopsis thaliana SEC10 locus. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 11;9(4):e94077. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094077.  link: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0094077

Drdová EJ, Synek L, Pečenková T, Hála M, Kulich I, Fowler JE, Murphy AS, Zárský V. 2013.  The exocyst complex contributes to PIN auxin efflux carrier recycling and polar auxin transport in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 2013 Mar;73(5):709-19. doi: 10.1111/tpj.12074. Epub 2013 Jan 10.  link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tpj.12074/abstract

Peremyslov VV1, Klocko AL, Fowler JE, Dolja VV. 2012. Arabidopsis Myosin XI-K Localizes to the Motile Endomembrane Vesicles Associated with F-actin.  Front Plant Sci. 2012 Sep 3;3:184. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00184 link: http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpls.2012.00184/abstract

Humphries JA, Vejlupkova Z, Luo A, Meeley RB, Sylvester AW, Fowler JE, Smith LG. ROP GTPases act with the receptor-like protein PAN1 to polarize asymmetric cell division in maize. Plant Cell. 2011 Jun;23(6):2273-84. Epub 2011 Jun 7. PMID:  21653193

Fendrych M, Synek L, Pecenková T, Toupalová H, Cole R, Drdová E, Nebesárová J, Sedinová M, Hála M, Fowler JE, Zársky V. 2010.  The Arabidopsis exocyst complex is involved in cytokinesis and cell plate maturation. Plant Cell. 2010 Sep;22(9):3053-65. doi: 10.1105/tpc.110.074351. link: http://www.plantcell.org/content/22/9/3053.abstract

Kulich I Cole R Drdová E Cvrcková F Soukup A Fowler J Zárský V  (2010)   Arabidopsis exocyst subunits SEC8 and EXO70A1 and exocyst interactor ROH1 are involved in the localized deposition of seed coat pectin.  New Phytol. (in press)  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03372.x/abstract

Fowler, J.E. (2010) Evolution of the ROP GTPase signaling module. In Integrated G Proteins Signaling in Plants , Yalovsky, S., Baluska, F. and Jones, A. (eds.), Springer, New York, pp. 305-327.  http://www.springerlink.com/content/u5umw2v41344w264/

Bedinger, P. and Fowler, J.E. (2009) The maize male gametophyte. In The Maize Handbook: Its Biology , S. Hake, J. Bennetzen (eds), Springer-Verlag, p. 57-77.  http://www.springerlink.com/content/u2742h4848736794/

Hála M., Cole. R.A., Synek  ,  L., Drdová  ,  E., Pecenková, T., Nordheim, A., Lamkemeyer, T., Madlung, J., Hochholdinger, F., Fowler, J.E. and Zársky, V. (2008) An exocyst complex functions in plant cell growth in  Arabidopsis  and tobacco. Plant Cell 20: 1330-1345.  http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/content/abstract/20/5/1330 and see summary at  http://www.plantcell.org/cgi/content/full/20/5/1188

Zarsky, V. and Fowler, J.E. (2008) ROP GTPases for spatial control of root hair morphogenesis. In  The Root Hair , A.M. Emons (ed), Springer-Verlag   http://www.springerlink.com/content/6243g213840172k0/

Cole, R.A and Fowler, J.E. (2006)  Polarized growth: maintaining focus on the tip.  Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2006 9:579-88.  http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1369-5266(06)00155-5

Williams, P., Hardeman, K., Fowler, J., and Rivin, C. (2006) Divergence of duplicated genes in maize: evolution of contrasting targeting information for enzymes in the porphyrin pathway. Plant J. 45:727-39.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-313X.2005.02632.x/abstract

Cole, R.A., Synek, L., Zarsky, V. and Fowler, J.E. (2005) SEC8, A subunit of the putative Arabidopsis exocyst complex, facilitates pollen germination and competitive pollen tube growth. Plant Physiol. , 138: 2005-2018.  http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/138/4/2005

Fowler, J.E., Vejlupkova, Z., Goodner, B.W., Lu, G. and Quatrano, R.S. (2004) Localization to the rhizoid tip implicates a Fucus distichus Rho family GTPase in a conserved cell polarity pathway. Planta 219:856-66  http://www.springerlink.com/content/9k0v2mn7ppw3v9dq/

Arthur, K.M., Vejlupkova, Z., Meeley, R.B. and Fowler, J.E. (2003) The maize ROP2 GTPase provides a competitive advantage to the male gametophyte. Genetics, 165: 2137-2151.  http://www.genetics.org/cgi/content/full/165/4/2137

Christensen, T.M., Vejlupkova, Z., Sharma, Y.K., Arthur, K.M., Spatafora, J.W., Albright, C., Duvick, J.P., Quatrano, R.S. and Fowler, J.E. (2003) Conserved subgroups and developmental regulation in the monocot rop gene family. Plant Physiology, 133:1791-1808.  http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/full/133/4/1791

Fowler, J.E. (2003) A gametophyte factor on chromosome 9 affects both male and female gametophytes, Maize Genetics Cooperation Newsletter 77: 26-27. http://www.maizegdb.org/mnl/77/59fowler.html

Ivanchenko, M., Vejlupkova, Z., Quatrano, R.S. and Fowler, J.E.  (2000). Maize ROP7 GTPase contains a unique, CaaX box-independent plasma membrane targeting signal. Plant J. 24: 79-90.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1365-313x.2000.00855.x/pdf

Fowler, J.E. Cell polarity in algae and vascular plants. (2000).  In Frontiers in Molecular Biology: Cell Polarity, Drubin, D. (ed), pp. 141 - 180.  Oxford University Press, New York