dave weston in greenhouse

Biosciences Division
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Telephone : (865)-241-8323
Email : westondj@ornl.gov
Fax : (865)-576-9939
Google Scholar : Profile

David J. Weston

Research Staff

  • PhD, Clemson University, 2006
  • M.S., Cornell University, 2001
  • B.S., Cornell University, 1998

Research Interests:

Our research is motivated by a desire to further our understanding of the underling genetics driving plant traits critical to organismal performance and terrestrial C cycle dynamics under changing climatic conditions. Our lab takes an integrated approach using high-throughput genomic technologies, biochemistry and genetics, all placed within a physiological framework to answer our research questions. Unique to our approach is the use of network and systems biology modeling approaches to correlate groups of genes and metabolites to physiological process (e.g., photosynthesis, respiration, microbial associates).

A guiding principle to our research is the use of model-informed experimentation to explicitly test predictions using laboratory- and field-based manipulations that ultimately feedback to improve model parameterization.

We work at multiple scales with the following projects aimed at scaling genome level inference to physiological traits and phenotypic predictions.

CAM plant genomics and physiology: As part of a larger project (cambiodesign.org), I am working with Anne Borland (Newcastle University, UK) and Xiaohan Yang (ORNL) to link gene regulatory network models to underlying biochemical and physiological processes governing CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) photosynthesis and plant growth. CAM is a key adaptation allowing plants to conserve water and is relatively common among desert succulents.

Plant and microbe interactions: As part of the Plant Microbes Interface project (pmi.ornl.gov), our primary objective is to understand how host plant genotype and environment interact with microbial members to shape community assembly and function. Populus spp. are known to associate with numerous microbes resulting in an assortment of functional interactions through known and yet to be discovered signaling and metabolic networks that drive neutral, antagonistic and mutualistic responses. Our efforts have identified systemic root-bacteria derived gene network that influences leaf metabolism, photosynthesis and whole plant fitness.

The scientific goal of KBase (kbase.us) is to produce predictive models, reference datasets, and analytical tools and to demonstrate their utility in DOE biological research relating to bioenergy and carbon cycle. The plant component of the KBase will allow users to model genotype-to-phenotype relationships using metabolic and functional networks as well as phenotype measurements and high throughput experimental data.

A key challenge for accurate C cycle predictions is in understanding how multiple interacting climate change drivers influence primary productivity among diverse landscapes. I participate in two projects spanning boreal and tropic regions aimed at enhancing Earth System Model parameterization and thus prediction through plant-based trait characterizing.

The SPRUCE project is a multi-year interaction among scientists at ORNL and the U.S. Forest Service at the Marcell Experimental Forest (nrs.fs.fed.us/ef/marcell). Our objective within this large collaborative project is to define the response surface of gross photosynthesis to warming, tissue water content, and ambient CO2 concentration for dominant Sphagnum species. These results will be incorporated into peatland modeling efforts (with Paul Hanson), and plant community composition change among woody and herbaceous vegetation (with Rich Norby).

Tropical forest research: In a recent collaboration with climate modeler Lianhong Gu (ORNL), Rich Norby (ORNL), and Klaus Winter (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), we are conducting gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements to enhance predictions on tropical forest carbon budgets by improving mesophyll conductance and photosynthesis representations in climate models (e.g., CLM4).

The moss Sphagnum is a new study organism in our lab as it is a key member in peatland and arctic ecosystems that account for vast stores in terrestrial carbon. Whether these ecosystems continue to store carbon in response to changing climatic conditions remains an open question. This makes Sphagnum arguably the most important plant genus governing terrestrial carbon cycling. Our lab is pioneering the use of Sphagnum for ecological genomics studies and we are currently funded to generate a neutron-based mutagenesis population, a QTL mapping pedigree (With Wellington Muchero, ORNL), and conduct RNA-Seq and physiological investigations.


In Press

  • Wullschleger SD, Weston DJ, DiFazio SP, Tuskan GA. Revisiting the sequencing of the first tree genome: Populus trichocarpa. In press, Tree Physiology.
  • Ye C-Y, Li T, Yin H, Weston DJ, Tuskan GA, Tschaplinski TJ, Yang X. 2013. Evolutionary analyses of non-family genes in plants. Plant Journal doi: 10.1111/tpj.12073
  • Yin H, Chen CJ, Yang J, Weston DJ, Chen JG, Muchero W, Ye N, Tschaplinski TJ, Wullschleger SD, Cheng ZM, Tuskan GA, Yang X. Functional genomics of drought tolerance in bioenergy crops. Critical Review in Plant Science, In Press
  • Karve AA, Jawdy SS, Gunter LE, Allen SM, Yang X, Tuskan GA, Wullschleger SD, Weston DJ. Initial characterization of shade avoidance response suggests functional diversity between Populus phytochrome B genes. New Phytologist 196: 726-737.
  • Weston DJ, Pelletier DA, Morrell-Falvey JL, Tschaplinski TJ, Jawdy SA, Lu TY, Allen SM, Karve A, Melton SJ, Martin MZ, Schadt CW, Chen JG, Yang X, Doktycz MJ, Tuskan G. Pseudomonas fluorescens induces strain-dependent and strain-independent host plant responses in defense networks, primary metabolism, photosynthesis and fitness. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, 25: 765-778.
  • Wullschleger SD, Weston DJ. 2012. Modeling the molecular and climatic controls on flowering. New Phytologist 194: 599-601
  • Souza L, Weston DJ, Sanders NJ, Karve A, Crutsinger GM, and Classen AT. 2012. Variation from individuals to ecosystems in the response to climatic warming: a test with Solidago altissima. Ecosphere 2(12)
  • Weston DJ, Hanson PJ, Norby RJ, Gerald A. Tuskan GA, Wullschleger SD. 2012. From systems biology to photosynthesis and whole-plant physiology: a conceptual model for integrating multi-scale networks. Plant Signaling & Behavior 7(2)
  • JM Warren, CM Iversen, CT Garten Jr, RJ Norby, J Childs, D Brice, RM Evans, L Gu, P Thornton, DJ Weston. 2011. Timing and magnitude of C partitioning through a young loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) stand using 13C labeling and shade treatments. Tree Physiology, doi:10.1093/treephys/tpr129
  • Weston D.J., A. A. Karve, L.E. Gunter, S.A. Jawdy, X. Yang, S.M. Allen, S.D. Wullschleger. 2011. Comparative physiology and transcriptional networks underlying the heat shock response in Populus trichocarpa, Arabidopsis thaliana and Glycine max. Plant Cell and Environment Volume: 34 Issue: 9 Pages: 1488-1506
  • Guo, Jianjun; Yang, Xiaohan; Weston, David J.; et al. 2011. Abscisic Acid Receptors: Past, Present and Future. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology Volume: 53 Issue: 6 Pages: 469-479.
  • Guo J., S. Wang, O. Valerius, H. Hall, Q. Zeng, J. Li, D.J. Weston, B.E. Ellis, and J. Chen. 2010. Involvement of Arabidopsis RACK1 in protein translation and its regulation by abscisic acid. Plant Physiol. 155: 370-383.
  • Wullschleger, S.D., D.J. Weston, J.M. Davis. 2009. Populus responses to edaphic and climatic cues: Emerging evidence from systems biology research. Critical Reviews in Plant Science 28: 368-374
  • Leakey, A.D.B., E.A. Ainsworth, S.M. Bernard, C.R. Markelz, D.R. Ort, S.A. Placella, A. Rogers, M.D. Smith, E.A. Sudderth, D.J. Weston, S.D. Wullschleger, S. Yuan. 2008. Gene expression profiling – opening the black box of plant ecosystem responses to global. Accepted Global Change Biology 15(5): 1201-1213 doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2008.01818.x
  • Yang, X., U.C. Kalluri, S. Jawdy, L.E. Gunter, Y. Tongming, T. Tschaplinski, D.J. Weston, R. Priya, G.A. Tuskan. 2008. F-box gene family is expanded in herbaceous annual plants Arabidopsis and Rice relative to woody perennial plant Populus. Plant Phys. 148: 1189-1200.
  • David J. Weston, Lee E. Gunter, Alistair Rogers, and Stan D. Wullschleger. 2008. Connecting Genes, Coexpression Modules, and Molecular Signatures to Environmental Stress Phenotypes in Plants. BMC Systems Biology.
  • Weston, D.J. and W.L. Bauerle. 2007. Inhibition and acclimation of C3 photosynthesis to moderate heat: A perspective from thermally contrasting genotypes of Acer rubrum L. Tree Physiology
  • Weston, D.J., W.L. Bauerle, G.A. Swire-Clarke, B.D. Moore, and W. V. Baird. 2007. Characterization of Rubisco activase from thermally contrasting genotypes of Acer rubrum L. In press: The American Journal of Botany
  • King, A.W., C.A. Gunderson, W.M. Post, D.J. Weston and S.D. Wullschleger. 2006. Plant Respiration in a Warmer World. Science. 312:536-537
  • Bauerle, W.L., D.J. Weston, J.D. Bowden, J.B. Dudley, and J.E. Toler. 2004. Leaf absorptance of photosynthetically active radiation in relation to chlorophyll meter estimates among woody plant species. Scientia Horticulturae, 101:169-178.

Book Chapters:

  • X. Yang, T. Li, D Weston, A. Karve, J Labbe, L Gunter, P. Sukumar, A. Borland, J.G. Chen, S. Wullschleger, T. Tschaplinski, G. Tuskan Book chapter in Biofuels. Innovative Biological Solutions to Challenges in Sustainable Biofuels Production, 2011
  • Wullschleger, S.D., D.J. Weston. book chapter box in Resource Conservation and Management. Microarrays and molecular phenotypes, 2010