DeFraia Lab

My lab

I have a small plant genetics lab at Ferris State University where my undergraduate students and I have studied the functions of plant genes using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Research is currently suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Using molecular and physiological assays, my students have studied genes involved in diverse biological processes, including leaf development, flowering time, and drought resistance. A list of my student's research presentations can be seen below. Students in my lab have gone on to medical, optometry, and doctoral programs.

Student research presentations

1. Paige Kramer, Amanda Kruse, and Christopher DeFraia. “An Arabidopsis Mutant with Drought Hypersensitivity” West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference. Grand Rapids, MI. (2017)

2. Paige Kramer, Amanda Kruse, and Christopher DeFraia. “An Arabidopsis Mutant with Drought Hypersensitivity” Ferris State University Student Research Fellowship Symposium. Big Rapids, MI. (2016)

3. Amanda Kruse and Christopher DeFraia. “Characterization of Leaf Development Genes in Arabidopsis thaliana” Ferris State University Student Research Fellowship Symposium. Big Rapids, MI. (2015)

Past Research and Training

I am primarily a molecular geneticist who specializes in studying gene expression, with some proficiency in microscopy, and with biochemical and physiological assays. Over the years I've received excellent training in the labs of some wonderful mentors, and worked with many talented undergraduates. At Rutgers I worked in Lily Young's lab studying genes involved in the respiratory metabolism of the toxic element arsenic. During my graduate studies at the University of Florida I characterized genes involved in plant disease resistance with Zhonglin Mou. The bulk of my postdoctoral work was done with Keith Slotkin in the area of epigenetics, and I spent some time in Dr. Iris Meier's lab studying nuclear envelope proteins.


1. Martinez G, Wolff P, Wang Z, Moreno-Romero J, Santos-González J, Conze LL, DeFraia C, Slotkin RK, Köhler C. Paternal easiRNAs regulate parental genome dosage in Arabidopsis. Nat Genet. Feb;50(2):193-198. (2018).

2. DeFraia, C, & Slotkin, R. K. (2014). Analysis of retrotransposon activity in plants. Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, NJ), 1112, 195–210.

3. DeFraia C*, Wang Y*, and Mou Z. (2013). The histone acetyltransferase activity of Elongator subunit 3 is essential for its role in plant immunity. BMC Plant Biology. 13:102. (2013). *Indicates equal contribution.

4. Nuthikattu S, McCue AD, Panda K, Fultz D, DeFraia C, Thomas EN, Slotkin RK. The initiation of epigenetic silencing of active transposable elements is triggered by RDR6 and 21-22 nucleotide small interfering RNAs. Plant Physiol. May;162(1):116-31. (2013).

5. DeFraia, C and Mou, Z. The role of the Elongator complex in plants. Plant Signal Behav 6 (2). (2011).

6. DeFraia C, Zhang X, and Mou Z. Elongator subunit 2 is an accelerator of immune responses in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant J. 64 (3):511–523. (2010).

7. Xiong Y, DeFraia C, Williams D, Zhang X, and Mou Z. Deficiency in a cytosolic ribose-5-phosphate isomerase causes chloroplast dysfunction, late flowering and premature cell death in Arabidopsis. Physiol Plant 137: 249–263. (2009).

8. Xiong Y, DeFraia C, Williams D, Zhang X, Mou Z. Characterization of Arabidopsis 6-phosphogluconolactonase T-DNA insertion mutants reveals an essential role for the oxidative section of the plastidic pentose phosphate pathway in plant growth and development. Plant Cell Physiol 50 (7): 1277–1291. (2009).

9. DeFraia C, Schmelz E, and Mou Z. A rapid biosensor-based method for quantification of free and glucose-conjugated salicylic acid. Plant Methods 4, 28. (2008).

10. Zhang X, Xiong Y, DeFraia C, Schmelz E, and Mou Z. The Arabidopsis MAP Kinase Kinase 7: A crosstalk point between auxin signaling and defense responses? Plant Signal Behav 3, 272-274. (2008).

11. Zhang X, Dai Y, Xiong Y, DeFraia C, Li J, Dong X, and Mou Z. Overexpression of Arabidopsis MAP Kinase Kinase 7 leads to activation of plant basal and systemic acquired resistance. Plant Journal 52, 1066-1079. (2007).

12. Perez-Jimenez J, DeFraia C, Young L. Arsenate respiratory reductase gene (arrA) for Desulfosporosinus sp. strain Y5. Biochem Biophys Res Commun Dec 16:(2):825-9 (2005).