Eriko Sasaki

Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Kyushu University, 744 Motooka Nishi-ku Fukuoka 819-0395, Japan


Plant science, quantitative genetics, environmental adaptation, evolutionary genetics, epigenetics

Research interests

As we have individuality, such as hair colors, body shapes, and sensitivity to diseases, there are many differences across individuals within a species. Such inherited differences are genetically and environmentally controlled, and they have become fundamental sources of evolution. However, functional connections from genetic variation to phenotypic variation largely remain unclear. What are the missing links? We are trying to answer this question by using genomics, quantitative genetics, and molecular biology approaches. Our main scientific goal is to understand how genetic and environmental factors are shaping various morphological and physiological differences at the levels from cell to ecology, and how natural selection is working on the variations.


The genetic basis of life-history traits in Arabidopsis

As some plants flower in spring, and others flower in fall, plants have their own seasonal life cycles from germination to flowering and fruiting in order to live in various climates and environments. Such adaptive traits (aka life-history traits) are tightly coordinated with seasonal cues, including day length, precipitation, and winter low temperature through interaction with genetic variation (G x E). However, the dissecting of G x E is still challenging because the genetic architecture is strongly linked to population structure; furthermore, a large number of genetic variants with a small effect size are involved in the regulation of complex traits. We have determined the genetic basis of life-history traits contributing to local adaptation in natural populations of Arabidopsis by developing quantitative genetics models.

Selected articles

Sasaki, E., Köcher, T., Filiault, D., Nordborg, M*., Revisiting a GWAS peak in Arabidopsis thaliana reveals possible confounding by genetic heterogeneity., Heredity, 127, 245–252 (2021).

Sasaki E., †Frommlet F., Nordborg M*., The genetic architecture of the network underlying flowering time variation in Arabidopsis thaliana., G3-Genes Genom Genet, 8: 3059-3068 (2018)

Kerdaffrec E., Filiault DL., Korte A., Sasaki E., Nizhynska V., Seren Ü., Nordborg M*., Multiple alleles at a single locus control seed dormancy in Swedish Arabidopsis., elife., e22502 (2016)

Sasaki E., Zhang P., Atwell S., Meng D, Nordborg M*. "Missing" G x E Variation Controls Flowering Time in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genet., 11(10):e1005597 (2015)

†Goda H., †Sasaki E., Akiyama K., Maruyama-Nakashita A., Nakabayashi K., Li W., Ogawa M., Yamauchi Y., Preston J., Aoki K., Kiba T., Takatsuto S., Fujioka S., Asami T., Nakano T., Kato H., Mizuno T., Sakakibara H., Yamaguchi S., Nambara E., Kamiya Y., Takahashi H., Yokota-Hirai M., Sakurai T., Shinozaki K., Saito K., Yoshida S. and Shimada Y*., The AtGenExpress hormone and chemical treatment dataset: experimental design, data evaluation, model data analysis and data access, Plant J. 55: 526-542 (2008)

The genetic basis of genome-defense systems in plants

Organisms have evolved genome-defense systems to protect genomes from transposable elements called ‘selfish genes.’ Indeed, cytosine DNA methylation is a significant component of the genome defense systems found in both mammals and plants, albeit with significant differences in the regulations and functionalities. We have reported that there is a considerable natural variation of DNA methylation levels across individuals in Arabidopsis thaliana through the 1001 epigenome project and also have figured out the genetic basis of DNA methylation levels associated with the mobilization of transposable elements.

Selected articles

Sasaki E*., Gunis J., Reichardt-Gomez I., Nizhynska V., and Nordborg M*., Conditional GWAS of non-CG transposon methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana reveals major polymorphisms in five genes. bioRxiv. (2022); PLoS Genet. 18(9): e1010345 (2022).

Sasaki E., Kawakatsu T., Ecker JR., and Nordborg M*. Common alleles of CMT2 and NRPE1 are major determinants of CHH methylation variation in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genet. 15(12): e1008492 (2019).

†Kawakatsu T., †Huang SC., †Jupe F., †Sasaki E., Schmitz RJ., Urich MA., Castanon, R., Nery JR., Barragan C., He Y., Chen H., Dubin M., Lee C., Wang C., Bemm F., Becker C., O’Neil R., O’Malley RC., Quarless DX., The 1001 Genomes Consortium, Schork NJ, Weigel D., Nordborg N., Ecker JR*., Epigenomic Diversity in a Global Collection of Arabidopsis thaliana Accessions Resource. Cell 166:492-505 (2016)