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Elena Shpak

Associate professor



The focus of my research is plant growth and development using Arabidopsis as a model system. Specifically we are studying the genetic regulation of organism size. California's coastal redwood tree can grow to a height of 350 feet, an equivalent of a 35-story skyscraper. At the same time, aquatic watermeal plants (genus Wolffia) are so small that they resemble specks of cornmeal floating on the water. Why are some plants so large, while others are so small? Plant organs grow from organ primordia that are formed by the continuous activity of apical meristems. While the meristem determines the size, number and identity of primordia, later processes in the primordia define the final shape and size of organs. We are using a simple plant organ – pedicel - to understand mechanisms regulating tissues grow. A pedicel is a small stalk that connects the flower/fruit to the stem. Using histological approach we study chronologically cell proliferation and elongation patterns in known and new Arabidopsis mutants and use these data to build a computer model of the pedicel growth.


  • PhD: Biochemistry - Ohio University, Athens 
  • MS: Plant physiology - Moscow State University, Russia


Pillitteri, L. J., Bemis S.M., Shpak E.D., Torii K.U. Haploinsufficiency after successive loss of signaling reveals a role for ERECTA-family genes in Arabidopsis ovule development. (2007)  Development, 134(17) p3099-109.

Shpak, E.D., McAbee J.M., Pillitteri L.J., Torii K.U. (2005) Stomatal patterning and differentiation by synergistic interactions of receptor kinases. Science, 309(5732) p290-3

Shpak, E.D., Berthiaume C.T., Hill E.J., Torii K.U. (2004) Synergistic interaction of three ERECTA-family receptor-like kinases controls Arabidopsis organ growth and flower development by promoting cell proliferation. Development, 131(7) p1491-1501.

Shpak, E.D., Lakeman M.B., and Torii, K.U. (2003) Dominant-negative receptor uncovers modes of action and redundancy in the Arabidopsis ERECTA LRR-RLK signaling pathway that regulates organ shape. Plant Cell, 15 p.1095-1110.

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