Brunkard Lab

Plant Molecular Biology in the Laboratory of Genetics, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Plant Metabolic Signaling

The Brunkard Lab studies how cells monitor nutrient availability through the TARGET OF RAPAMYCIN (TOR) metabolic signaling network, focusing especially on plant model species.  We investigate TOR signaling at molecular, cellular, and genomic scales in a diverse range of species, including Arabidopsis thaliana (a model for the mustard/crucifer family), Nicotiana benthamiana (a model for the potato/tomato/eggplant family), and Zea mays (the world’s most produced crop and a model for the wheat/barley/rice family).


TOR is an atypical protein kinase that is conserved across all eukaryotic lineages (animals, fungi, plants, and protists).  TOR forms a complex, TORC1 (structure shown to the left), that is composed of six proteins: two TOR subunits (blue and orange), two RAPTOR subunits (green and red), and two LST8 subunits (purple and yellow).  Our lab studies how this complex is activated by life’s “building blocks” (e.g., amino acids, nucleotides, and sugars) and how it subsequently promotes growth and development.