Maureen Hanson
Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor

Maureen Hanson




Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics
321 Biotechnology Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-2703


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Maureen R. Hanson is Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics. She received a B.S. degree at Duke University and a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Harvard University. After completing an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, she joined the faculty of the Biology department at the University of Virginia. In 1985 she moved to Cornell, where she became the first coordinator of the Program in Plant Cell and Molecular Biology. She is presently a member of the graduate Fields of Genetics and Development, Plant Biology, and Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology, the Program in Infection and Pathobiology, and a joint member of the Department of Plant Biology.

Research Description

Modifying organelle gene expression through RNA editing: During RNA editing in plant organelles, cytidines encoded by genomic DNAs are modified to uridines in transcripts. Editing in plants appears to correct defective RNA post-transcriptionally. We are identifying the nuclear proteins that comprise the chloroplast and mitochondrial editosomes in order to understand the molecular mechanism of RNA editing.

Probing plant cell organization with organelle-targeted fluorescent proteins: By labeling chloroplasts with GFP, we observed tubular structures that we named “stromules” which extend from and sometimes connect chloroplasts. We are investing whether myosin motor proteins and the actin cytoskeleton are involved in stromule formation and chloroplast movement in response to light.

Expression of useful industrial enzymes and therapeutic proteins in chloroplasts: Some foreign proteins can be expressed from chloroplast transgenes at 30-40% of total leaf protein. However, other proteins expressed from introduced genes accumulate to only low levels in transgenic chloroplasts. We are investing what factors affect foreign protein yield, including the gene expression signals incorporated into the transgene, the stability of the foreign protein, and environmental growth conditions.

Improving photosynthesis by reducing photorespiration: We are taking a genetic engineering strategy to improve photosynthetic efficiency by concentrating carbon dioxide near the carbon-fixing enzyme RUBISCO. Our approach requires synthesis of a novel structure within chloroplasts using both chloroplast and nuclear transformation.

Gene expression in immune cells in chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME):  Using high-throughput sequencing methods, we are determining whether the transcriptome in B, T, and NK cells differs between patients with CFS/ME and normal controls.


Lin MT, Occhialini A, Andralogc PJ, Parry MA, Hanson MR. 2014. A faster Rubisco with potential to increase photosynthesis in crops. Nature 513(7519): 547-50. PMID: 25231869. PMCID: PMC4176977.

Lin MT, Occhialini A, Andralogc PJ, Devonshire J, Hines KM, Parry MA, Hanson MR. 2014. b-Carboxysomal proteins assemble into highly organized structures in Nicotiana chloroplasts. Plant J. 79:1-12. PMID: 24810513. PMCID: PMC4080790.

Sun T, Germain A, Giloteaux L, Hammani K, Barkan A, Hanson MR, Bentolila S. 2013. An RNA recognition motif-containing protein is required for plastid RNA editing in Arabidopsis and maize. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 110:E1169-78.

Hanson MR, Gray BN, Ahner BA. 2013. Chloroplast transformation for engineering of photosynthesis.  J Exp Bot.  64:731-42

Bentolila S, Heller WP, Sun T, Babina AM, Friso G, van Wijk KJ, Hanson MR. 2012.  RIP1, a member of an Arabidopsis protein family, interacts with the protein RARE1 and broadly affects RNA editing. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 109:E1453-61.

Alter HJ, Mikovits JA, Switzer WM, Ruscetti FW, Lo SC, Klimas N, Komaroff AL, Montoya JG, Bateman L, Levine S, Peterson D, Levin B, Hanson MR, Genfi A, Bhat M, Zheng H, Wang R, Li B, Hung GC, Lee LL, Sameroff S, Heneine W, Coffin J, Hornig M, Lipkin WI. 2012. A multicenter blinded analysis indicates no association between chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and either xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus or polytropic murine leukemia virus.  MBio 3(5)

Lee, LL., Lin L,,  Bell DS,  Levine S, and Hanson MR.  2012.  Sensitivity of PCR assays for murine gammaretroviruses and mouse contamination in human blood samples.  PLoS One 7, e37482.

Sattarzadeh, A., E. Schmelzer, and M.R. Hanson. 2011. Analysis of organelle targeting by DIL domains of the Arabidopsis myosin XI family. Frontiers in Plant Genetics and Genomics 2:72.

Gray B.N., H. Yang H, B.A. Ahner, and M.R. Hanson. 2011. An efficient downstream box fusion allows high-level accumulation of active bacterial beta-glucosidase in tobacco chloroplasts. Plant Mol Biol. 76:345-55

Hanson M.R and A. Sattarzadeh. 2011 Stromules: recent insights into a long neglected feature of plastid morphology and function. Plant Physiol. 155:1486-92

Stern, D.B., M. Goldschmidt-Clermont, M.R. Hanson. 2010. Chloroplast RNA metabolism. Ann. Rev. Plant Biol. 61:125-155.

Bentolila S, Knight W, Hanson M.R. 2010 Natural variation in Arabidopsis leads to the identification of REME1, a pentatricopeptide repeat-DYW protein controlling the editing of mitochondrial transcripts. Plant Physiol. 154:1966-1982.

Click here to view Dr. Hanson's PubMed listings.