Wellington Muchero

Biosciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Email :

Wellington Muchero

Quantitative Geneticist

  • Ph.D., Plant Pathology, UC Riverside, 2007
  • B.S., Crop Science, Cal Poly Pomona, 2003


  • Plant Molecular Biologist/Geneticist, Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Sep 2010-Present)
  • Postdoctoral Scholar, Nematology Dept. University of California, Riverside (Jan 2008 - Sep 2010)

Current Projects

Bioenergy Science Center - http://bioenergycenter.org

The BioEnergy Science Center is one of three Bioenergy Research Centers established by the United States Department of Energy in part to come up with genetic solutions to overcome the key constraint of cell wall recalcitrance in enabling the economic conversion of plant biomass to biofuels. We target cell-wall recalcitrance phenotypes in naturally varying populations of P. trichocarpa and interspecific mapping pedigrees to identify genes that affect lignin content, sugar release, and fermentation efficiency. We established 3 common gardens with replicated clones of P. trichocarpa natural variants in the Pacific Northwest for phenotypic characterization and evaluation of genotype x environment interactions. To complement this phenotypic data, we apply high-density SNP genotyping and whole-genome resequencing to characterize DNA polymorphisms segregating in these populations. We have successfully identified key genes affecting cell wall recalcitrance using a combination of QTL and Linkage Disequilibrium (LD)-based Association Mapping.

Plant Microbe Interfaces

Our primary objective is to identify and characterize genetic determinants that drive Populus spp. interaction with microbial symbionts. We use a combination of statistical and molecular genetics to identify genomic intervals suggestive function in microbial recognition. Currently we are validating and screening insertion/deletion (INDEL) polymorphisms occurring in tandemly duplicated receptor kinases which have been implicated in pattern recognition of carbohydrate moieties in microbial cell walls leading to host immunity or highly specific host-microbe interactions. This work is being conducted within naturally varying P. trichocarpa and P. deltoides populations in the Pacific Northwest and Eastern USA.

Physcomitrella Genome Improvement

Physcomitrella is an evolutionarily important model plant species that provides insight into the emergence of terrestrial flowering plant. It is the first moss to have its genome sequenced. In this project, we are working with an international consortium of scientist from the University of Freiburg - Germany, University of Leeds - UK, DOE-Joint Genome Institute - USA, HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology - USA, and the University of Florida - USA to apply rapid SNP genotyping in the creation of high-density genetic maps to be used in aligning genome scaffolds in addition to QTL mapping.

Allele Mining for Biomass Quality

We are a part of USDA/DOE funded Biomass Feedstocks project in collaboration with scientists at the Michigan Technological University in which we characterize natural variants of genes discovered via activation tagging for their effect on biomass quality and quantity characteristics. We conduct targeted allele mining using whole-genome resequencing on diverse Populus genotypes.

Recent Publications

  • McKown AD, Klápště J, Guy RD, Geraldes, A, Porth I, Hannemann J, Friedmann M, Muchero W , Tuskan GA, Ehlting J, Cronk QCB, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD. and Douglas CJ. 2014. Genome-wide association implicates numerous genes underlying ecological trait variation in natural populations of Populus trichocarpa. New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.12815
  • Yin H Chen CJ, Yang J, Weston DJ, Chen JG, Muchero W, Ye N, Tschaplinski TJ, Wullschleger SD, Cheng ZM, Tuskan GA, Yang X. 2014. Functional Genomics of Drought Tolerance in Bioenergy Crops. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 33:205–224 doi: 10.1080/07352689.2014.870417.
  • Muchero W, In Challenges and Opportunities for the World's Forests in the 21st Century (pp. 587-595). Springer Netherlands. ISBN 978-94-007-7076-8.
  • Porth I, Klápště J, Skyba O, Hannemann J, Mckown AD, Guy RD, DiFazio SP, Muchero W et al. 2013. Genome-wide association mapping for wood characteristics in Populus identifies an array of candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms. New Phytologist 200: 710-726.doi: 10.1111/nph.12422. Epub 2013 Jul 26.
  • Muchero W et al. 2013. Genetic architecture of delayed senescence, biomass, and grain yield under drought stress in cowpea. PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e70041. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070041.
  • Muchero W, Sewell MM, Ranjan P, Gunter LE, Tschaplinski TJ, Yin, T, Tuskan GA. Genome anchored QTLs for biomass productivity in hybrid Populus grown under contrasting environments.PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54468. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054468. Epub 2013 Jan 29.
  • Geraldes A, et al. 2013. A 34K SNP genotyping array for Populus trichocarpa: Design, application to the study of natural populations and transferability to other Populus species. Mol Ecol Resour. 2013 Mar;13(2):306-23. doi: 10.1111/1755-0998.12056.
  • Porth I, Klápště J, Skyba O, Lai BSK, Geraldes A, Muchero W, Tuskan GA, Douglas CJ, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD. 2012. Populus trichocarpa cell wall chemistry and ultrastructure trait variation, genetic control and genetic correlations. New Phytologist 197(3):777-790.doi/10.1111/nph.12014/
  • Jin Z, Muchero W, Chen JG. 2013. Analysis of cell division and cell elongation in the hypocotyls of Arabidopsis heterotrimeric G protein mutants. Methods Mol Biol. 2013;1043:37-43. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-532-3_4.

My Curriculum Vitae