Ursula Goodenough

Professor Emerita of Biology
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1137
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    We are studying the molecular basis and evolution of life-cycle transitions in the flagellated green soil alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. We have cloned genes in the mating-type (MT) locus and genes regulated by MT that control the transitions between vegetative growth, gametic differentiation, and zygote development. These include genes responsible for gametic differentiation, mate recognition, and uniparental inheritance of chloroplast DNA, allowing us to study their function and their evolution during speciation. Of particular current interest are the homeoproteins Gsm1 and Gsp1 that heterodimerize upon gametic cell fusion, migrate to the nucleus, and activate the early diploid genetic program. These proteins share genetic ancestry with the Knox and Bell homeoprotein families that play key roles in determining cell fate in the land plants.

    We have also recently initiated studies on lipid-body biogenesis in Chlamydomonas, the goal being to contribute to the international effort to produce algal biodiesel as a transportation fuel. We have found conditions that induce a 60-fold increase in triacylglycerol biosynthesis, and seek to identify the molecular pathways and environmental conditions involved in this stimulus, after which we will attempt to enhance production further via genetic manipulation

    Selected Publications

    Ferris, P.J., Goodenough, U.W. (1997) Mating type in Chlamydomonas is specified by mid, the minus-dominance gene. Genetics 146: 859-869.

    Ferris, P.J., Pavlovic, C., Fabry, S., Goodenough, U.W. (1997) Rapid evolution of sex-related genes in Chlamydomonas.Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94: 8634-8639.

    Umen, J.G., Goodenough, U.W. (2001) Chloroplast DNA methylation and inheritance in Chlamydomonas. Genes Dev. 15: 2585-2597.

    Umen, J.G., Goodenough, U.W. (2001) Control of cell division by a retinoblastoma protein homolog in Chlamydomonas.Genes Dev. 15: 1652-1661.

    Ferris, P.J., Woessner, J.P., Waffenschmidt, S., Kilz, S., Drees, J., Goodenough, U.W. (2001) Glycosylated polyproline II rods with kinks as a structural motif in plant hydroxy-proline-rich glycoproteins. Biochemistry 40: 2978-2987.

    Ferris, P.J., Armbrust, E.V., Goodenough, U.W. (2002) Genetic structure of the mating-type locus of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Genetics 160: 181-200.

    Goodson, Carrie, Roth, Roth, Wang, Zi Teng, Goodenough, Ursula (2011) Structural Correlates of Cytoplasmic and Chloroplast Lipid Body Synthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Stimulation of Lipid Body Production with Acetate Boost. Eukaryotic Cell. 1592-1606

     The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved (second edition)

    The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved (second edition)

    For many of us, the great scientific discoveries of the modern age–the Big Bang, evolution, quantum physics, relativity–point to an existence that is bleak, devoid of meaning, pointless. But in “The Sacred Depths of Nature,” eminent biologist Ursula Goodenough shows us that the scientific world view need not be a source of despair. Indeed, it can be a wellspring of solace and hope.