Neil Olszewski
Office Address

1445 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
United States

Neil E.


Professor Emeritus
Plant and Microbial Biology

One line of research seeks to improve colonization and delivery of fixed nitrogen to plants by diazotrophic bacteria. Another project investigates regulation of plant growth by modification of nuclear and cytosolic proteins with O-linked N-acetylglucosamine or fucose. We also study the molecular biology of DNA plant viruses.

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Research interests

My research interests include elucidating the role of posttranslational modification of nuclear and cytosolic proteins with O-linked N-acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) in plant growth and development. In Arabidopsis thaliana this modification is made by two O-GlcNAc transferases called SPINDLY and SECRET AGENT. Genetic studies with spindly and secret agent mutants show that O-GlcNAc modification regulates gibberellin and cytokinin signaling and is involved in other process such as light responses and circadian rhythms. Currently we are identifying the proteins that are modified by SPINDLY and SECRET AGENT. We are particularly interested in identifying the components of plant signal transduction pathways that are subject to this modification and then determining the effect of the O-GlcNAc modification on the activity of these proteins.

Another project studies plant pararetroviruses viruses. These viruses, which infect many plant species, including important crop species, replicate by reverse transcription producing virions containing a circular double-stranded DNA. DNA from some of these viruses is integrated into the nuclear genome of host plants. These integrated sequences are believed both to cause infection and to confer immunity to infection by viruses that are transmitted into these plants. We are studying the role of the integrated sequences in infection and immunity and are also elucidating the function of virally encoded proteins in the infection process.

Selected publications

Livne, S., Lor, V.S., Nir, I., Eliaz, N., Aharoni, A., Olszewski, N.E., Eshed, Y., and Weiss, D. (2015). Uncovering DELLA-Independent Gibberellin Responses by Characterizing New Tomato procera Mutants. The Plant cell 27, 1579-1594.

Sokol, K.A., and Olszewski, N.E. (2015). The Putative Eukaryote-Like O-GlcNAc Transferase of the Cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942 Hydrolyzes UDP-GlcNAc and Is Involved in Multiple Cellular Processes. Journal of Bacteriology 197, 354-361.

Lor, V.S., Starker, C.G., Voytas, D.F., Weiss, D., and Olszewski, N.E. (2014). Targeted Mutagenesis of the Tomato PROCERA Gene Using Transcription Activator-Like Effector Nucleases. Plant physiology 166, 1288-1291.

Kim Y.C., Jahren N., Stone M.D., Udeshi N.D., Markowski T.W., Witthuhn B.A., Shabanowitz J., Hunt D.F. and Neil E. Olszewski N.E. (2013)  Identification and Origin of N-linked β-D-N-acetylglucosamine Monosaccharide Modifications on Arabidopsis thaliana Proteins. Plant Physiol. Plant Physiol 161, 455-464. 

Perez, J.D., Udeshi, N.D., Shabanowitz, J., Ciordia, S., Juarez, S., Scott, C.L., Olszewski, N.E., Hunt, D.F., and Garcia, J.A. (2013). O-GlcNAc modification of the coat protein of the potyvirus Plum pox virus enhances viral infection. Virology 442: 122-131.

Steiner E., Efroni I., Gopalraj M., Saathoff K., Tseng, T-S*, Kieffer M., Eshed Y., Olszewski N.E., Weiss D.  (2012) The Arabidopsis O-GlcNAc transferase SPINDLY interacts with class I TCPs to facilitate cytokinin responses in leaves and flowers. The Plant Cell 24: 96-108.

Kim Y.C., Udeshi N.D., Balsbaugh J.L., Shabanowitz J. Hunt D.F., Olszewski N.E. (2011) O-GlcNAcylation of the Plum pox virus capsid protein catalyzed by SECRET AGENT: characterization of O-GlcNAc sites by electron transfer dissociation mass spectrometry. Amino Acids 40: 869-876.

Olszewski N.E., West C.M., Sassi S.O., Hartweck L.M. (2010) O-GlcNAc protein modification in plants: Evolution and function. Biochim Biophys Acta 1800: 49-56.

Maymon, I., Greenboim-Wainberg, Y., Sagiv, S., Kieber, J.J., Moshelion, M., Olszewski, N., and Weiss, D. (2009). Cytosolic activity of SPINDLY implies the existence of a DELLA-independent gibberellin-response pathway. Plant J. 58, 979-988.

Zhang, L., Lockhart, B. and Olszewski, N. (2008) Lamium Leaf Distortion-Associated virus, a New Member of the Genus Caulimovirus. Arch Virol. 153: 1181-1184.

Hartweck, L.M. and Olszewski, N.E. (2006) SECRET AGENT and SPINDLY have overlapping roles in the development of Arabidopsis thaliana L. Heyn. J. Exp. Bot. 57: 865-875.

Scott, C.L., Hartweck, L.M., de Jesus Perez, J., Garcia, J.A., and Olszewski, N.E. (2006) SECRET AGENT, an Arabidopsis thaliana O-GlcNAc transferase, modifies the Plum pox virus capsid protein. FEBS Lett. 580:5829-5835. 

Silverstone, A.L., Tseng*, T-S., Swain, S.W., Dill, A., Jeong, S.Y., Olszewski, N.E. and Sun, T-p. (2006) Functional analysis of SPINDLY in gibberellin signaling in arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 143:987-1000.

Greenboim-Wainberg Y.,   Maymon I., Borochov R., Alvarez J., Olszewski N., Ori N., Eshed Y., and Weiss D. (2005) Cross Talk between Gibberellin and Cytokinin: The Arabidopsis GA-Response Inhibitor SPINDLY Plays a Positive Role in Cytokinin Signaling. Plant Cell, 17: 92-102.

Chen, D. , Juárez, S., Hartweck, L., Alamillo, J.M., Simón-Mateo, C., Pérez, J.J., Fernández-Fernández, M.R., Olszewski, N.E. and García, J.A. (2005) Identification of SECRET AGENT as the O-GlcNAc Transferase that participates in plum pox virus infection. J. Gen. Virol., 79: 9381-9387.

Tseng, T.-S, Salomé, P. A., McClung, C. R. and Olszewski, N.E. (2004) SPINDLY and GIGANTEA interact and act in Arabidopsis thaliana pathways involved in light responses, flowering and rhythms in cotyledon movements.   Plant Cell 16: 1550-1563.

Al-Saady, N.A., Torbert, K.A. Smith, L., Makarevitch, I., Baldridge, G., Zeyen, R.J., Muehlbauer, G.J., Olszewski, N.E. and Somers, D.A. (2004) Tissue specificity of sugarcane bacilliform virus promoter in oat, barley and wheat. Molecular Breeding 14: 331-338.

Swain, S.M., Tseng, T.-S., Thornton, T., Gopalraj, M. and Olszewski, N.E. (2002) SPINDLY is a nuclear-localized repressor of gibberellin signal transduction expressed throughout the plant. Plant Physiol. 129: 605-615.

Hartweck LM, Scott CL, Olszewski N.E. (2002) Two O-Linked N-Acetylglucosamine Transferase Genes of Arabidopsis thaliana L. Heynh. Have Overlapping Functions Necessary for Gamete and Seed Development. Genetics 161: 1279-1291.

Tseng, T.-S., Swain, S.and Olszewski, N.E. (2001) Ectopic Expression of the TPR Domain of SPY Causes Defects in Gibberellin Response. Plant Physiol 126: 1250-1258.

Swain, S.M., Tseng, T.-S. and Olszewski, N.E. (2001) Altered expression of SPINDLY affects gibberellin response and plant development. Plant Physiol 126: 1174-1185.

Ndowora, T., Dahal, G., LaFleur, D., Harper, G., Hull, R., Olszewski, N. and Lockhart, B. (1999) Evidence that badnavirus infection in Musa can originate from integrated pararetroviral sequences. Virology 255: 214-220.

Tzafrir, I., Torbert, K.A., Lockhart, B.E.L., Somers, D.A. and Olszewski, N.E. (1998) The sugarcane bacilliform virus promoter is active in both monocots and dicots. Plant Molecular Biology 347-356.

Cheng, C.-P., Tzafrir, I., Lockhart, B.E. and Olszewski, N.E. (1998) Tubules Containing Virus Particles Are Present in Plant Tissues Infected with Commelina Yellow Mottle Badnavirus. J. Gen. Virol. 79: 925-929.

Tzafrir, I., Ayala-Navarrete, L., Lockhart, B.E.L., and Olszewski, N.E. (1997) The N-terminal Portion of the 216 Kilodalton Polyprotein of Commelina yellow mottle badnavirus is Required for Virus Movement but not for Replication. Virology 232: 359-368.

Jacobsen, S.E. and Olszewski, N.E. (1996) SPINDLY, a tetratricopeptide repeat protein involved in gibberellin signal transduction in Arabidopsis . Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci . 93:9292-9296.

Cheng, C.-P., Lockhart B.E. and Olszewski, N.E. (1996) The ORFI and II Proteins of Commelina Yellow Mottle Badnavirus are Virion-Associated. Virology 223:263-271

Jacobsen, S.E., Shi*, L., Xin, Z. and Olszewski, N.E.  (1994) Gibberellin-induced changes in translatable mRNA populations of stamens and shoots of gibberellin-deficient tomato.  Planta 192: 372-379.

Jacobsen, S.E. and Olszewski, N.E. (1993) Mutations at the spindly locus of Arabidopsis alter gibberellin signal transduction. The Plant cell 5:887-896.

Shi, L, Gast*, R., Gopalraj, M. and Olszewski, N. (1992) Characterization of a shoot specific, GA3- and ABA-regulated gene from tomato.  The Plant Journal 2: 153-159.

Medberry, S., Lockhart, B., and Olszewski, N. (1992) The Commelina yellow mottle virus promoter is a strong promoter in vascular and reproductive tissues.  The Plant Cell 4: 185-192.  

Jacobsen, S.E. and Olszewski, N.E.  (1991) Characterization of the arrest in anther development associated with gibberellin-deficiency of the gib-1 mutant of tomato.  Plant Physiology 97:409-414.

Medberry, S.L., Lockhart, B.E.L. and Olszewski, N.E.  (1990)  Properties of Commelina yellow mottle virus's complete DNA sequence, genomic discontinuities and transcript suggest that it is a pararetrovirus.  Nucleic Acids Res. 18:5505-5513.


Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1983