David Des Marais

Des Marais

David L. Des Marais

Research Associate

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Phone: 617-384-5495
Fax: 617.384.6596


PhD Biology (2008), Duke University
BA Integrative Biology (2000), The University of California at Berkeley

Research Interests

I study the diversity of life at many different scales. Like most of us, I am amazed by the visual diversity of plant life. But I am also fascinated by the diversity of genes, proteins, and other molecules which give rise to the beautiful plants that surround us. My research addresses how molecular processes shape organismal diversity, and how these processes evolve within and between species of plants.

My current research deals with the how plants interact with the environment, and how plant-environment interactions vary within and between species of plants. Unlike animals, plants cannot move to escape harsh environmental conditions. For example, if water becomes scarce, plants must adjust their water intake so as not to exhaust every last drop. And, if all soil water is exhausted, they must protect their tissues from drying out. Plants have evolved many strategies to deal with environmental stress—from the thick leaves and unusual photosynthesis seen in cacti, to so-called “resurrection plants” which can survive periods of near complete desiccation. Most plants do not have nearly such extravagant strategies for coping with stress, but all plants respond to stress in some way. I study the genetic and physiological basis of these responses. In my research, I hope to understand how plants adapt to local climates, and how we might use this information to conserve plant populations and to exploit genetic diversity to provide food and fuel for growing demand.

Recent Publications

  • Des Marais, D.L., W.D. Skillern and T.E. Juenger.  In press. Deeply diverged alleles in the Arabidopsis AREB1 transcription factor drive genome-wide differences in transcriptional response to the environment. Molecular Biology and Evolution.
  • Lasky, J.R., D.L. Des Marais, D.B. Lowry, I. Povolotskaya, J.K. McKay, J.H. Richards, T.H. Keitt, and T.E. Juenger. 2014. Natural variation in abiotic stress responsive gene expression and local adaptation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 2283-2296.
  • Gordon, S., H. Priest, D.L. Des Marais and 15 others. 2014. Genome diversity in Brachypodium distachyon: deep sequencing of highly diverse inbred lines. Plant Journal 79: 361-374.
  • Des Marais, D.L., L.C. Auchincloss, E. Sukamtoh, J.K. McKay, T. Logan, J.H. Richards, and T.E. Juenger. 2014. Variation in MPK12 affects water use efficiency in Arabidopsis and reveals a pleiotropic link between guard cell size and ABA response. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 111: 2836-2841.
  • Des Marais, D.L., K. Hernandez, and T.E. Juenger. 2013. Genotype-by-environment interaction and plasticity: exploring genomic responses of plants to the abiotic environment. Annual Reviews in Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 44: 5-29.
  • Des Marais, D.L., J.K. McKay, J.H. Richards, S. Sen, T. Wayne and T.E. Juenger. 2012. Physiological genomics of response to soil drying in diverse Arabidopsis accessions. The Plant Cell 24: 893-914.
  • Lasky, J.R., D.L. Des Marais, J.K. McKay, J.H. Richards, T.E. Juenger, and T.H. Keitt. 2012. Characterizing genomic variation of Arabidopsis thaliana: The roles of geography and climate. Molecular Ecology 21: 5512-5529.