Happy Birthday Dr. Sarah Matar

Today we gleefully celebrated Dr. Sarah Matar’s (possibly the best baker in Wagner Lab history) birthday with two delicious chocolate cakes. Getting innovative with cake traditions she blew out her candles using an ensemble method of allowing the wind to blow them out to waving her hand back and forth. A very impressive birthday scientist indeed!

Happy Halloween from the Wagner Lab

For this years spooky season we celebrated by carving pumpkins, drinking pumpkin soup, and eating pumpkin pie. For many of us it was our first time carving pumpkins, and we had so much fun despite the wind.

Wagner lab celebrates us

After a busy year of sheltering in place and self-quarantines, Dr. Doris Wagner and Dr. John Wagner treated the lab and loved ones to a joyful dinner in her backyard. This past year+ was a bit quirky, but we made the best of what we could. Who knows what the future may bring, but for now, we are so thankful to be able to feast and socialize together again.


Wagner Lab is Fully Covid-19 Vaccinated

With so many new faces joining the Wagner lab over the last year, about half the lab has only known our lab meetings as virtual. However, now that all the members of the Wagner lab have been fully vaccinated, we can finally return to lab meetings in-person. While virtual meetings had their pros (its easier to see the minute details of a slide on your own computer) and cons (having to constantly monitor your mute button), having our first in-person lab meeting felt like an accomplishment that warranted a group selfie.

Adam Konkol is awarded a Churchill Scholarship

Senior at University of Pennsylvania, Adam Konkol, an undergraduate who worked in the Wagner lab, was awarded a Churchill Scholarship along with December graduate Abigail Timmel. Featured in PennToday, the Wagner Lab is excited to have been a part of Konkol’s journey and look forward to what the future has in store.  For more information, see the PennToday article at: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/two-churchill-scholars-penn

Wagner Lab welcomes Dr. Sarah Matar

The Wagner Lab is delighted to receive yet another fantastic addition to our team. Dr. Sarah Matar joins us after defending her PhD thesis on the vernalization-driven transition to flowering in winter rapeseed in the lab of Dr. Christian Jung of the Plant breeding institute in Kiel University in Germany. In the Wagner Lab, we look forward to her work on understanding the antagonistic roles of FT and TFL1.

Wagner Lab welcomes Dr. Sandhan Prakash

This Valentines Day weekend the Wagner Lab welcomed the newest member of our lab, Dr. Sandhan Prakash, to the City of Brotherly Love! Dr. Prakash flew all the way from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore, India where he received his Ph.D. In the Wagner Lab, he plans to study the function of epigenomic regulators in cell fate reprogramming and plant survival mechanism during abiotic stress response.

LEAFY is a pioneer transcription factor and licenses cell reprogramming to floral fate


Jin, J., Klasfeld, S., Zhu, Y., Fernandez Garcia, M., Xiao, J., Han, S.K., Konkol, A., Zhu, Y. & Wagner, D. (2021). LEAFY is a pioneer transcription factor and licenses cell reprogramming to floral fate. Nature Communications, 12(1), 626.


Master transcription factors reprogram cell fate in multicellular eukaryotes. Pioneer transcription factors have prominent roles in this process because of their ability to contact their cognate binding motifs in closed chromatin. Reprogramming is pervasive in plants, whose development is plastic and tuned by the environment, yet little is known about pioneer transcription factors in this kingdom. Here, we show that the master transcription factor LEAFY (LFY), which promotes floral fate through upregulation of the floral commitment factor APETALA1 (AP1), is a pioneer transcription factor. In vitro, LFY binds to the endogenous AP1 target locus DNA assembled into a nucleosome. In vivo, LFY associates with nucleosome occupied binding sites at the majority of its target loci, including AP1. Upon binding, LFY ‘unlocks’ chromatin locally by displacing the H1 linker histone and by recruiting SWI/SNF chromatin remodelers, but broad changes in chromatin accessibility occur later. Our study provides a mechanistic framework for patterning of inflorescence architecture and uncovers striking similarities between LFY and animal pioneer transcription factor.

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