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

  • Muchero et al. Genetic characterization of rare recessive traits conferring enhanced root epidermal mucilage and root hairlessness in cowpea. (Submitted to Theoretical Applied Genetics)
  • Muchero et al. Genetic architecture of delayed senescence, biomass, and grain yield under drought stress in cowpea. PLoS ONE (Revisions submitted)
  • Muchero et al. corresponding author (2012) Genome anchored QTLs for biomass productivity in Hybrid Populus grown under contrasting environments. PLoS ONE (in press)
  • Muchero et al. corresponding author (2012) Genome resequencing in Populus: Revealing large-scale genome variation and implications on specialized-trait genomics. In Challenges and Opportunities for the world’s Forests in the 21st Century. Springer academic publishers. (Awaiting publication)
  • Geraldes A, DiFazio S, Slavov GT, Priya R, Muchero W et al. (2012) A 34K SNP genotyping array for Populus trichocarpa: design, application to the study of natural populations and transferability to other Populus species. Molecular Ecology Resources (in press)
  • Porth I, Klápště J, Skyba O, Lai BSK, Geraldes A, Muchero W et al. (2012) Populus trichocarpa cell wall chemistry and ultrastructure trait variation, genetic control and genetic correlations. New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.12014
  • Slavov GT, DiFazio SP, Martin J, Schackwitz SP, Muchero W et al. (2012) Genome resequencing reveals multiscale geographic structure and extensive linkage disequilibrium in the forest tree Populus trichocarpa. New Phytologist DOI: 10.1111/j.1469–8137.2012.04258.x
  • Guo J, Morrell-Falvey JL, Labbé JL, Muchero W, Kalluri UC, Tuskan GA, Chen JG (2012) Highly efficient isolation of Populus mesophyll protoplasts and its application in transient expression assays. PLoS ONE, 7(9): e44908
  • Induri BR, Ellis DR, Slavov GT, Yin T, Zhang X, Muchero W et al. (2012) Identification of quantitative trait loci and candidate genes for cadmium tolerance in Populus. Tree Physiology 32: 626–638
  • Muchero et al. (2009) A consensus genetic map of cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L) Walp.] and synteny based on EST-derived SNPs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:18159–18164
  • Muchero et al. 2011. Genic SNP markers and legume synteny reveal candidate genes underlying QTL for Macrophomina phaseolina resistance and maturity in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L) Walp.] BMC Genomics 12:8
  • Muchero et al. (2010) Restriction site polymorphism-based candidate gene mapping for seedling drought tolerance in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.]. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 120: 509–51
  • Muchero et al. (2010) QTL analysis for resistance to foliar damage caused by Thrips tabaci and Frankliniella schultzei (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) feeding in cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.). Molecular Breeding 25: 47–56
  • Muchero et al. (2009) Mapping QTL for drought stress-induced premature senescence and maturity in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] Theoretical and Applied Genetics 118: 849–863
  • Muchero et al. (2008) Seedling stage drought-induced phenotypes and drought-responsive genes in diverse cowpea genotypes. Crop Science 48: 541–552
  • Agbicodo EM, Fatokun CA, Bandyopadhyay R, Wydra K, Diop NN, Muchero W et Al. (2010) Identification of markers associated with bacterial blight resistance loci in cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L) Walp.]. Euphytica 175:215–226
  • Tuskan G, Slavov GT, DiFazio S, Muchero W et al. (2011) Populus resequencing: toward genome-wide association studies. BMC Proceedings 5 (Suppl 7): 121