Welcome to the website of the Axtell Lab at the Pennsylvania State University.  We are biologists who study a class of genes which produce small RNAs, using diverse plant species.  Small RNAs went largely undetected until around the turn of the century — we now know that they are critical components of gene expression in nearly all eukaryotic organisms.  These small RNAs are functionally united in that they all function as sequence-specific repressors of other genes.  Small RNAs are especially important for regulating the developmental programs of both animals and plants.  Our research addresses fundamental unknowns of small RNA functions in plants including:

1. Computational methods to discover, annotate, and quantify small RNA genes in plants.
2.  What are the functions of ancient small RNAs in extremely diverse species?
3.  What are the targets of small RNAs in plants?
4.  What are the sequence requirements for effective small RNA-target interactions in plants?

We use genetics, molecular biology, and genomics to answer these questions.

Affiliations at Penn State