Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research
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Joyce Van Eck

Joyce Van Eck
Joyce Van Eck
Assistant Professor
Office/Lab: B13/B4
jv27@cornell.edu
Office: 607-220-9532
Lab: 607-254-1207

Research Summary

Research Summary

The focus of research in the Van Eck laboratory is biotechnological approaches to the study of gene function and crop improvement. For our studies, we apply several genetic engineering strategies to two major food crops: potato and tomato. The development of biotechnological techniques has made it possible to design and introduce gene constructs into plant cells and recover plants that express the introduced genes. Genes of interest to us have the potential to strengthen a plant’s resistance to disease, improve fruit characteristics, and enhance nutritional quality.

Sol Genomics

DNA Sequence Puzzle

Selected Publications

Selected Publications

View All Publications    |    All papers on PubMed

Ju, H.J., Van Eck, J. and Gray, S.M. 2012. Factors influencing plant regeneration from seedling explants of Hairy nightshade (Solanum sarrachoides). Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 108: 121-128

Li, L., Yang, Y., Xu, Q., Owsiany, K., Welsch, R., Chitchumroonchokchai, C., Lu, S., Van Eck, J., Deng, X.X., Failla, M. and Thannhauser, T.W. 2012. The Or gene enhances carotenoid accumulation and stability during post-harvest storage of potato tubers. Molecular Plant 5: 339-352

Sato, S., Tabata, S., Hirakawa, H., Asamizu, E., Shirasawa, K., Isobe, S., Kaneko, T., Nakamura, Y., Shibata, D., Aoki, K., Egholm, M., Knight, J., Bogden, R., Li, C.B., Shuang, Y., Xu, X., Pan, S.K., Cheng, S.F., Liu, X., Ren, Y.Y., Wang, J., Albiero, A., Dal Pero, F., Todesco, S., Van Eck, J., Buels, R.M., Bombarely, A., Gosselin, J.R., Huang, M.Y., Leto, J.A., Menda, N., Strickler, S., Mao, L.Y., Gao, S., Tecle, I.Y., York, T., Zheng, Y., Vrebalov, J.T., Lee, J., Zhong, S.L., Mueller, L.A., Stiekema, W.J., Ribeca, P., Alioto, T., Yang, W.C., Huang, S.W., Du, Y.C., Zhang, Z.H., Gao, J.C., Guo, Y.M., Wang, X.X., Li, Y., He, J., Li, C.Y., Cheng, Z.K., Zuo, J.R., Ren, J.F., Zhao, J.H., Yan, L.H., Jiang, H.L., Wang, B., Li, H.S., Li, Z.J., Fu, F.Y., Chen, B.T., Han, B., Feng, Q., Fan, D.L., Wang, Y., Ling, H.Q., Xue, Y.B.A., Ware, D., McCombie, W.R., Lippman, Z.B., Chia, J.M., Jiang, K., Pasternak, S., Gelley, L., Kramer, M., Anderson, L.K., Chang, S.B., Royer, S.M., Shearer, L.A., Stack, S.M., Rose, J.K.C., Xu, Y.M., Eannetta, N., Matas, A.J., McQuinn, R., Tanksley, S.D., Camara, F., Guigo, R., Rombauts, S., Fawcett, J., Van de Peer, Y., Zamir, D., Liang, C.B., Spannagl, M., Gundlach, H., Bruggmann, R., Mayer, K., Jia, Z.Q., Zhang, J.H., Ye, Z.B.A., Bishop, G.J., Butcher, S., Lopez-Cobollo, R., Buchan, D., Filippis, I., Abbott, J., Dixit, R., Singh, M., Singh, A., Pal, J.K., Pandit, A., Singh, P.K., Mahato, A.K., Dogra, V., Gaikwad, K., Sharma, T.R., Mohapatra, T., Singh, N.K., Causse, M., Rothan, C., Schiex, T., Noirot, C., Bellec, A., Klopp, C., Delalande, C., Berges, H., Mariette, J., Frasse, P., Vautrin, S., Zouine, M., Latche, A., Rousseau, C., Regad, F., Pech, J.C., Philippot, M., Bouzayen, M., Pericard, P., Osorio, S., del Carmen, A.F., Monforte, A., Granell, A., Fernandez-Munoz, R., Conte, M., Lichtenstein, G., Carrari, F., De Bellis, G., Fuligni, F., Peano, C., Grandillo, S., Termolino, P., Pietrella, M., Fantini, E., Falcone, G., Fiore, A., Giuliano, G., Lopez, L., Facella, P., Perrotta, G., Daddiego, L., Bryan, G., Orozco, M., Pastor, X., Torrents, D., van Schriek, K.N.V.M.G.M., Feron, R.M.C., van Oeveren, J., de Heer, P., daPonte, L., Jacobs-Oomen, S., Cariaso, M., Prins, M., van Eijk, M.J.T., Janssen, A., van Haaren, M.J.J., Jo, S.H., Kim, J., Kwon, S.Y., Kim, S., Koo, D.H., Lee, S., Hur, C.G., Clouser, C., Rico, A., Hallab, A., Gebhardt, C., Klee, K., Jocker, A., Warfsmann, J., Gobel, U., Kawamura, S., Yano, K., Sherman, J.D., Fukuoka, H., Negoro, S., Bhutty, S., Chowdhury, P., Chattopadhyay, D., Datema, E., Smit, S., Schijlen, E.W.M., van de Belt, J., van Haarst, J.C., Peters, S.A., van Staveren, M.J., Henkens, M.H.C., Mooyman, P.J.W., Hesselink, T., van Ham, R.C.H.J., Jiang, G.Y., Droege, M., Choi, D., Kang, B.C., Kim, B.D., Park, M., Kim, S., Yeom, S.I., Lee, Y.H., Choi, Y.D., Li, G.C., Gao, J.W., Liu, Y.S., Huang, S.X., Fernandez-Pedrosa, V., Collado, C., Zuniga, S., Wang, G.P., Cade, R., Dietrich, R.A., Rogers, J., Knapp, S., Fei, Z.J., White, R.A., Thannhauser, T.W., Giovannoni, J.J., Botella, M.A., Gilbert, L., Gonzalez, R., Goicoechea, J.L., Yu, Y., Kudrna, D., Collura, K., Wissotski, M., Wing, R., Schoof, H., Meyers, B.C., Gurazada, A.B., Green, P.J., Mathur, S., Vyas, S., Solanke, A.U., Kumar, R., Gupta, V., Sharma, A.K., Khurana, P., Khurana, J.P., Tyagi, A.K., Dalmay, T., Mohorianu, I., Walts, B., Chamala, S., Barbazuk, W.B., Li, J.P., Guo, H., Lee, T.H., Wang, Y.P., Zhang, D., Paterson, A.H., Wang, X.Y., Tang, H.B., Barone, A., Chiusano, M.L., Ercolano, M.R., D'Agostino, N., Di Filippo, M., Traini, A., Sanseverino, W., Frusciante, L., Seymour, G.B., Elharam, M., Fu, Y., Hua, A., Kenton, S., Lewis, J., Lin, S.P., Najar, F., Lai, H.S., Qin, B.F., Qu, C.M., Shi, R.H., White, D., White, J., Xing, Y.B., Yang, K.Q., Yi, J., Yao, Z.Y., Zhou, L.P., Roe, B.A., Vezzi, A., D'Angelo, M., Zimbello, R., Schiavon, R., Caniato, E., Rigobello, C., Campagna, D., Vitulo, N., Valle, G., Nelson, D.R., De Paoli, E., Szinay, D., de Jong, H.H., Bai, Y.L., Visser, R.G.F., Lankhorst, R.M.K., Beasley, H., McLaren, K., Nicholson, C., Riddle, C., Gianese, G. and Consortium, T.G. 2012. The tomato genome sequence provides insights into fleshy fruit evolution. Nature 485: 635-641

Cavatorta, J., Perez, K.W., Gray, S.M., Van Eck, J., Yeam, I. and Jahn, M. 2011. Engineering virus resistance using a modified potato gene. Plant Biotechnol J 9: 1014-1021

Brutnell, T.P., Wang, L., Swartwood, K., Goldschmidt, A., Jackson, D., Zhu, X.G., Kellogg, E. and Van Eck, J. 2010. Setaria viridis: a model for C4 photosynthesis. Plant Cell 22: 2537-2544

Van Eck, J., Zhou, X., Lu, S. and Li, L. 2010. Modulation of carotenoid accumulation in transgenic potato by inducing chromoplast formation with enhanced sink strength. Methods Mol Biol 643: 77-93

Van Eck, J. and Keen, P. 2009. Continued expression of plant-made vaccines following long-term cryopreservation of antigen-expressing tobacco cell cultures. In Vitro Cell Dev-Pl 45: 750-757

Mueller, L.A., Lankhorst, R.K., Tanksley, S.D., Giovannoni, J.J., White, R., Vrebalov, J., Fei, Z., van Eck, J., Buels, R., Mills, A.A., Menda, N., Tecle, I.Y., Bombarely, A., Stack, S., Royer, S.M., Chang, S.-B., Shearer, L.A., Kim, B.D., Jo, S.-H., Hur, C.-G., Choi, D., Li, C.-B., Zhao, J., Jiang, H., Geng, Y., Dai, Y., Fan, H., Chen, J., Lu, F., Shi, J., Sun, S., Chen, J., Yang, X., Lu, C., Chen, M., Cheng, Z., Li, C., Ling, H., Xue, Y., Wang, Y., Seymour, G.B., Bishop, G.J., Bryan, G., Rogers, J., Sims, S., Butcher, S., Buchan, D., Abbott, J., Beasley, H., Nicholson, C., Riddle, C., Humphray, S., McLaren, K., Mathur, S., Vyas, S., Solanke, A.U., Kumar, R., Gupta, V., Sharma, A.K., Khurana, P., Khurana, J.P., Tyagi, A., Sarita, Chowdhury, P., Shridhar, S., Chattopadhyay, D., Pandit, A., Singh, P., Kumar, A., Dixit, R., Singh, A., Praveen, S., Dalal, V., Yadav, M., Ghazi, I.A., Gaikwad, K., Sharma, T.R., Mohapatra, T., Singh, N.K., Szinay, D., de Jong, H., Peters, S., van Staveren, M., Datema, E., Fiers, M.W.E.J., van Ham, R.C.H.J., Lindhout, P., Philippot, M., Frasse, P., Regad, F., Zouine, M., Bouzayen, M., Asamizu, E., Sato, S., Fukuoka, H., Tabata, S., Shibata, D., Botella, M.A., Perez-Alonso, M., Fernandez-Pedrosa, V., Osorio, S., Mico, A., Granell, A., Zhang, Z., He, J., Huang, S., Du, Y., Qu, D., Liu, L., Liu, D., Wang, J., Ye, Z., Yang, W., Wang, G., Vezzi, A., Todesco, S., Valle, G., Falcone, G., Pietrella, M., Giuliano, G., Grandillo, S., Traini, A., D'Agostino, N., Chiusano, M.L., Ercolano, M., Barone, A., Frusciante, L., Schoof, H., Jcker, A., Bruggmann, R., Spannagl, M., Mayer, K.X.F., Guig, R., Camara, F., Rombauts, S., Fawcett, J.A., Van de Peer, Y., Knapp, S., Zamir, D. and Stiekema, W. 2009. A snapshot of the emerging tomato genome sequence. The Plant Genome 2: 78-92

Lopez, A.B., Van Eck, J., Conlin, B.J., Paolillo, D.J., O'Neill , J. and Li, L. 2008. Effect of the cauliflower Or transgene on carotenoid accumulation and chromoplast formation in transgenic potato tubers. J Exp Bot 59: 213-223

Zhou, X., Van Eck, J. and Li, L. 2008. Use of the cauliflower Or gene for improving crop nutritional quality. Biotechnology Annual Review 14: 171-190

Labate JA, Grandillo S, Fulton T, Mu, Causse M. 2007. Tomato. In: Genome Mapping and Molecular Breeding in Plants Vol. 5: Vegetables. C Kole (ed). Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg New York pp 1: 131

Mueller, L. A., S. D. Tanksley, J. J. Giovannoni, J. Van Eck, S. Stack, D. Choi, B. D. Kim, M. Chen, Z. Cheng, C. Li, H. Ling, Y. Xue, G. Seymour, G. Bishop, G. Bryan, R. Sharma, J. Khurana, A. Tyagi, D. Chattopadhyay, N. K. Singh, W. Stiekema, P. Lindhout, T. Jesse, R. K. Lankhorst, M. Bouzayen, D. Shibata, S. Tabata, A. Granell, M. A. Botella, G. Giuliano, L. Frusciante, M. Causse, D. Zamir. 2005. The Tomato Sequencing Project, the First Cornerstone of the International Solanaceae Project (SOL). Comparative and Functional Genomics 6: 153-158

Van Eck, J., A. M. Walmsey, H. Daneill. 2004. Tomato Transformation: Nuclear and Chloroplast Genomes. Transgenic Crops of the World - Essential Protocols 0:

Frary, A., J. Van Eck. 2004. Organogenesis from Transformed Tomato Explants. Transgenic Plants: Methods and Protocols 286: 141-150

Joshi, L., J. M. Van Eck, K. Mayo, R. Di Silvestro, M. E. Blake (Nieto), T. Ganapathi, V. Haridas, J. U. Gutterman, C. J. Arntzen. 2002. Metabolomics of plant saponins: Bioprospecting triterpene glycoside diversity with respect to mammalian cell targets. OMICS 6: 235-246

Liu, J., J. Van Eck, B. Cong, S. D. Tanksley. 2002. A new class of regulatory genes underlying the cause of pear-shaped tomato fruit. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 99: 13302-13306

Kamo, K., M. Roh, A. Blowers, F. Smith, J. Van Eck. 2001. Transgenic Gladiolus In: Y. P. S. Bajaj (ed.). Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry 48: 155-170

Ganapathi, T. R., N. S. Higgs, P. J. Balint-Kurti, C. J. Arntzen, G. D. May, J. Van Eck. 2001. Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of embryogenic cell suspensions of the banana cultivar Rasthali (AAB). Plant Cell Reports 20: 157-162

Features

Features

How do potatoes produce and accumulate beta-carotene?

feature released -2008

According to the World Health Organization, 100 to 140 million children in the developing world suffer from Vitamin A deficiency, which can cause blindness and death. Joyce Van Eck’s laboratory is developing ways to produce potatoes with higher beta-carotene content “the precursor to Vitamin A” which could help alleviate this serious health issue. In related work, Tom Brutnell’s research team is investigating beta-carotene production in maize.

Van Eck’s laboratory helped develop two lines of modified potatoes that accumulate more beta-carotene than conventional varieties. Van Eck knocked out, or silenced, a gene in one line that converts beta-carotene into zeaxanthin, a carotenoid that is not converted into Vitamin A. She theorized and proved that silencing the gene would cause the potatoes to accumulate more beta-carotene. In the other line, Van Eck inserted a gene called Or from a naturally occurring orange cauliflower, which caused the modified potatoes to accumulate more beta-carotene than unmodified potatoes.

Van Eck’s laboratory is working to understand the molecular pathway involved in carotenoid production in potatoes. In analyzing the Or lines, the scientists discovered that early in the pathway (about four steps before betacarotene is produced), certain genes caused the accumulation of some carotenoids, but limited the accumulation of others. As a result of this discovery, Van Eck’s lab inserted certain genes into silenced lines and Or lines earlier in the pathway to counteract the limiting effect she had found.

Potatoes from these newly modified lines have been harvested and early analyses have been completed. Though initial results are encouraging, Van Eck is waiting for data from the second and third analyses to confirm success. If the plants do produce significantly higher amounts of beta-carotene, the next step will be field trials to ensure that yield, plant health and other factors are not affected in the modified potatoes.

In the meantime, Van Eck is working with the International Potato Center in Peru. Together, they are preparing for the eventual introduction of the more nutritious potatoes into developing countries where Vitamin A deficiency is a significant problem.

Aspects of Immunity.

feature released -2007

When a plant detects a protein from a pathogen that it’s resistant to, it quickly mounts a counter-attack, targeting the invader as well as infected cells. Previous studies of diverse plants species have implicated genes for the lipoxygenase (LOX) family of proteins in this type of response. To learn more about the roles LOX proteins play in tomato immunity, Joyce Van Eck exploits another feature of plants’ defensive toolbox.

This phenomenon, called virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is triggered when a virus infects a plant cell with its RNA. A versatile molecule, one of RNA’s functions in cells is to relay genetic information from DNA to “factories” where it’s converted into proteins. This type of RNA exists in single strands. Some viruses, however, use double-stranded RNA instead of DNA to store their genetic information, and to induce host cells to manufacture proteins for new viruses.

To defend against such viruses, plant cells chew up any double-stranded RNA that comes their way. They also go after any of their own RNA molecules that happen to be similar to the viral RNA. Like order forms lost en route from DNA to the protein factories, these single-stranded RNAs never get their message across, and the gene they relay is effectively “silenced”.

In recent years molecular biologists have turned this defense to their advantage, infecting plants with engineered viruses that contain double-stranded RNA from a gene of interest. Van Eck uses this technique to silence genes for LOX proteins in tomatoes. She then exposes the plants to pathogenic bacteria (Pseudomonas syringae) to see how the loss affects their defenses. Though in its early stages, the project has yielded unexpected results: Silencing either of two LOX genes appears to make plants less, not more, vulnerable to Pseudomonas.

Exploring the Genome.

feature released -2007

Most scientific exploration is much less telegenic than planting a flag on the moon or tracking whales on the high seas. Molecular biology is no exception: its giant leaps usually appear as lines on gels or colored dots on microarrays. But when Jim Giovannoni, Joyce Van Eck, and their collaborators proposed an international endeavor to sequence the tomato genome, they drummed up support by promising countries a prize befitting the occasion: the chance to put their flag on one of tomato’s 12 chromosomes..

This will be the first fruit or vegetable genome sequenced. The sequence will yield information not only about tomato and other members of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, including potato, pepper, eggplant, but also other related species such as coffee and sunflower. But the potential agricultural benefits weren’t enough to entice some nations to participate, so the U.S. team structured their proposal so that each country would be in charge of sequencing a discrete piece of the genome. “If these countries had each given a little money to the project, they wouldn’t have gotten much credit,”Giovannoni explained.” This way, each of them can point to a chromosome and say, we did that.

The U.S. team—made up of Giovannoni and Van Eck at BTI, two labs at Cornell, and one at Colorado State University—got funding late in 2004 to lay the foundation for the project. Soon afterward, labs and funding agencies in nine other countries each agreed to take on a chromosome. Tackling the project this way ruled out shotgun sequencing, in which the genome is cut into small pieces and sequenced, with the sequence information then pieced together into the complete genetic code. Instead, the U.S. team would have to cut the genome into larger DNA segments and find out which chromosomes those segments belonged to before they were sequenced. Fortunately, previous studies had shown that most tomato genes are clustered near the ends of chromosomes in areas called euchromatin islands. So the team made the project more manageable by concentrating on these islands, leaving out vast stretches of DNA with little useful genetic information.

Giovannoni believes the information contained in the euchromatin will help his lab learn more about fruit ripening and nutritional quality in tomato. His lab’s role in the sequencing is to isolate the DNA and break it up into large chunks. They then paste the chunks into vectors for US collaborators and labs overseas to use.

Van Eck manages the project, communicating with researchers around the world, coordinating shipments of DNA, and writing reports. She also edits the SOL Newsletter, which keeps interested researchers apprised of sequencing progress and other information of interest to the Solanaceae community. And she runs the outreach component of the sequencing project, including a summer bioinformatics internship that blends biology and computer science. She hopes the completed sequence will yield information helpful to her work on antioxidant accumulation in potatoes.

Giovannoni and Van Eck’s U.S. collaborators determine where and on which chromosome each section of DNA belongs, and later process the sequence information from abroad and make it available on a Web site. The team recently submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to sequence the three remaining tomato chromosomes, and if all goes well, the tomato genome should be unlocked sometime in 2008. In addition to helping scientists understand economically important nightshades, the sequence should yield clues to the puzzle of how such genetically similar plants evolved very diverse traits.

Lab Members

Lab Members