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Nathan M. Springer

McKnight Presidential Endowed Professor


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Research Interests

As a geneticist, I seek to understand the basis for heritable variation within a species. My group uses a combination of classical genetics, molecular genetics and genomics approaches to study molecular variation and inheritance in maize. Maize is one of the most important crop plants and also provides a strong model system for studying genetic variation. The maize genome is has a complex organization of genes and transposons and has high levels of variation among different individuals.

Heritable variation within a species can include DNA sequence changes that affect the quality of gene products, DNA sequence changes that influence expression levels of genes or epigenetic variation that can influence expression levels without requiring DNA sequence changes. My lab studies the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that lead to variation in gene expression levels. Many of our current studies are focused on how genetic variation, such as transposon insertions, and epigenetic variation influences chromatin modifications such as DNA methylation. We utilize genomic technologies to profile the epigenome of maize in different genotypes, tissue or environmental conditions to understand the factors that influence variation in chromatin modifications.

The members of my lab have active research projects studying the epigenome, transcriptome or genome of maize. We are interested in understanding how variation in chromatin, gene expression or genetic content leads to changes in phenotype. By improving our understanding of how the heritable information in the genome leads to altered phenotype we hope to enable crop improvement. My group also studies how transposons contribute to regulatory variation in maize, the prevalence and consequences of structural variation including copy number variation (CNV) and presence-absence variation (PAV) and how heritable variation contributes to heterosis in maize.

Selected Publications

Xu J, Chen G, Hermanson PJ, Xu Q, Sun C, Chen W, Kan Q, Li M, Crisp PA, Yan J, Li L, Springer NM, Li Q. (2019) Population-level analysis reveals the widespread occurrence and phenotypic consequence of DNA methylation variation not tagged by genetic variation in maize. Genome Biol. 20(1):243. doi: 10.1186/s13059-019-1859-0.

Crisp PA, Hammond R, Zhou P, Vaillancourt B, Lipzen A, Daum C, Barry K, de Leon N, Robin Buell C, Kaeppler SM, Meyers BC, Hirsch CN, Springer NM (2019) Variation and inheritance of small RNAs in maize inbreds and F1 hybrids. Plant Physiol. 2019 pii: pp.00817.2019. doi: 10.1104/pp.19.00817

Anderson SN, Stitzer MC, Brohammer AB, Zhou P, Noshay JM, O’Connor C, Hirsch CD, Ross-Ibarra J, Hirsch CN, Springer NM (2019) Transposable elements contribute to dynamic genome content in maize. Plant J. doi: 10.1111/tpj.14489.

Noshay JN, Anderson SA, Zhou P, Ji L, Ricci B, Lu Z, Stitzer MC, Crisp PA, Hirsch CN, Zhang X, Schmitz RJ, Springer NM (2019) Monitoring the interplay between transposable element families and DNA methylation in maize. PLoS Genet. 15(9):e1008291. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008291.

Xue W, Anderson SN, Wang X, Yang L, Crisp PA, Li Q, Noshay JM, Albert PS, Birchler JA, Bilinski P, Stitzer MC, Ross-Ibarra J, Flint-Garcia S, Chen X, Springer NM, Doebley JF (2019) Hybrid decay: a transgenerational epigenetic decline in vigor and viability triggered in backcross populations of teosinte with maize. Genetics 213(1):143-160. doi: 10.1534/genetics.119.302378.

Enders T, St Dennis S, Oakland J, Callen S, Gehan M, Miller N, Spalding E, Springer NM, Hirsch C (2019) Classifying cold stress responses of inbred maize seedlings using RGB imaging. Plant Direct. 3 (1): e00104.

Zhou P, Hirsch CN, Briggs SP, Springer NM. (2019) Dynamic patterns of gene expression additivity and regulatory variation throughout maize development. Mol Plant. 12(3):410-425

Springer NM, Anderson SN, Andorf CM, Ahern KR, Bai F, Barad O, Barbazuk WB, Bass HW, Baruch K, Ben-Zvi G, Buckler ES, Bukowski R, Campbell MS, Cannon EKS, Chomet P, Dawe RK, Davenport R, Dooner HK, Du LH, Du C, Easterling KA, Gault C, Guan JC, Hunter CT, Jander G, Jiao Y, Koch KE, Kol G, Kollner T, Kudo T, Li Q, Lu F, Mayfield-Jones D, Mei W, McCarty DR, Noshay JM, Portwood II J, Ronen G, Settles AM, Shem-Tov D, Shi J, Soifer I, Stein JC, Suzuki M, Vera DL, Vollbrecht E, Vrebalov JT, Ware D, Wei S, Wimalanathan K, Woodhouse MR, Xiong W, Brutnell TP (2018) The W22 genome: a foundation for maize functional genomics and transposon biology. Nature Genetics 50(9):1282-1288. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0158-0.

Springer NM, Schmitz RJ. (2017) Exploiting induced and natural epigenetic variation for crop improvement. Nat Rev Genet. 18(9):563-575.

  • BS 1997; Biology Major, Southeast Missouri State University 
  • PhD 2000; Plant Biology, University of Minnesota 
  • Post-doc 2000-2004; University of Wisconsin-Madison 
Office: 612-624-6241 Lab: 612-624-6163

Office: 306 Biological Sciences Lab: 313 Biological Sciences
1445 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108