Canonical and non-canonical epigenetic regulation of embryogenesis

Plant molecular and developmental biology

In multicellular organism, cell growth and differentiation are fundamental aspects that need to be spatially and
temporally coordinated from embryogenesis to adulthood. The Polycomb group (PcG) proteins, and particularly the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2), are key developmental regulators that are employed by several organisms, including plants, Drosophila, mouse, and human, to modulate transcription through so-called epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation. The most studied role for PRC2 is the deposition og trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27me3), which in turn affects gene expression.

In our lab, through the use of genetic, molecular biology and biochemistry techniques, we aim to:
• Identify PRC2 recruiters and characterize their mode of action
• Identify PRC2 non-histonic targets and characterize their function in plant development.

We focus particularly on seed development and embryogenesis, by looking at the spatial and temporal specification, acquisition and maintenance of cell identity, the control of the cell cycle progression, and tissue and organ patterning.  



  • The Polycomb group protein MEDEA controls cell proliferation and embryonic patterning in Arabidopsis
    Simonini, Sara; Bemer, Marian; Bencivenga, Stefano; Gagliardini, Valeria; Pires, Nuno D.; et al.
    Developmental Cell 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.06.004  JUL 12 2021
  • Recurrent requirement for the m(6)A-ECT2/ECT3/ECT4 axis in the control of cell proliferation during plant organogenesis
    Arribas-Hernandez, L; Simonini, S; (...); Brodersen, P
    Jul 2020 | DEVELOPMENT 147 (14) 10.1242/dev.189134  JUL 2020
  • Auxin Response Factors promote organogenesis by chromatin-mediated repression of the pluripotency gene SHOOTMERISTEMLESS
    Chung, Y; Zhu, Y; (...); Wagner, D
    Feb 21 2019 | NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 10  10.1038/s41467-019-08861-3 FEB 21 2019
  • Female reproductive organ formation: A multitasking endeavor
    Simonini, S and Ostergaard, L
    2019 | PLANT DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION 131 , pp.337-+ 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2018.10.004  2019
  • Auxin sensing is a property of an unstructured domain in the Auxin Response Factor ETTIN of Arabidopsis thaliana
    Simonini, S; Mas, PJ; (...); Hart, DJ
    Sep 10 2018 | SCIENTIFIC REPORTS 8 10.1038/s41598-018-31634-9  SEP 10 2018
  • A molecular framework controlling style morphology in Brassicaceae
    Simonini, S; Stephenson, P and Ostergaard, L
    Mar 2018 | DEVELOPMENT 145 (5) 10.1242/dev.158105  MAR 2018
Sara Simonini University of Zurich

Prof. Dr. Sara Simonini
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

phone +41 (44) 63 48267

Research topics

  • Epigenetics
  • Polycomb
  • Seed and embryo development
  • Protein complexes