Tai-ping Sun

Professor of Biology

3104 French Family Science Center, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 613-8166
The diterpenoid phytohormone gibberellin (GA) plays pivotal roles in regulating growth and development throughout the life cycle of higher plants. Mutations affecting GA biosynthesis or GA response were the key to control plant stature in wheat and rice that led to dramatically increased grain yield and contributed greatly to the success of the ‘Green Revolution’ in the 1960s. Although the GA biosynthetic pathway had been characterized biochemically, little was known about the sites of GA production and the mode of GA action. By multi-faceted approaches using the model system Arabidopsis, my lab has made major breakthroughs in revealing the sites and regulatory mechanisms of GA biosynthesis. We also elucidated the conserved molecular events of GA perception and the early GA signaling pathway. We identified the nuclear transcriptional regulators DELLA proteins, which function as master growth repressors by inhibiting all aspects of GA responses. Binding of GA to its nuclear receptor GID1 enhances the GID1-DELLA interaction, which in turn leads to the rapid proteolysis of DELLA through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, and allows transcriptional reprogramming of GA-responsive genes. We and other researchers further showed that GA-GID1-DELLA is a key regulatory module that controls plant growth by integrating internal developmental cues, and external biotic and abiotic signals (light, cold, salt and pathogen stresses). Surprisingly, we recently found that DELLA directly interacts with multiple classes of key regulatory proteins in other signaling pathways. Our work is revealing the complex regulatory network between the GA pathway and other pathways to control plant growth and development.


  • Ph.D., Duke University 1987

  • B.S., National Tsing Hua University (Taiwan) 1980

Sun, T-P. "Gibberellin Signal Transduction in Stem Elongation & Leaf Growth." In Plant Hormones, 308-328.: Springer Netherlands, 2010. Full Text

Crawford, BM, Strobbia, P, Wang, H-N, Zentella, R, Boyanov, MI, Pei, Z-M, Sun, T-P, Kemner, KM, and Vo-Dinh, T. "Plasmonic Nanoprobes for in Vivo Multimodal Sensing and Bioimaging of MicroRNA within Plants." Acs Applied Materials & Interfaces 11, no. 8 (February 12, 2019): 7743-7754. Full Text

Shinozaki, Y, Ezura, K, Hu, J, Okabe, Y, Bénard, C, Prodhomme, D, Gibon, Y, Sun, TP, Ezura, H, and Ariizumi, T. "Identification and functional study of a mild allele of SlDELLA gene conferring the potential for improved yield in tomato." Scientific Reports 8, no. 1 (December 1, 2018). Full Text

Zentella, R, Sui, N, Barnhill, B, Hsieh, W-P, Hu, J, Shabanowitz, J, Boyce, M, Olszewski, NE, Zhou, P, Hunt, DF, and Sun, T-P. "The Arabidopsis O-fucosyltransferase SPINDLY activates nuclear growth repressor DELLA." Nature chemical biology 13, no. 5 (May 2017): 479-485. Full Text Open Access Copy

Hirano, Y, Nakagawa, M, Suyama, T, Murase, K, Shirakawa, M, Takayama, S, Sun, T-P, and Hakoshima, T. "Structure of the SHR-SCR heterodimer bound to the BIRD/IDD transcriptional factor JKD." Nature Plants 3 (February 17, 2017): 17010-null. Full Text

Park, J, Oh, D-H, Dassanayake, M, Nguyen, KT, Ogas, J, Choi, G, and Sun, T-P. "Gibberellin Signaling Requires Chromatin Remodeler PICKLE to Promote Vegetative Growth and Phase Transitions." Plant Physiology 173, no. 2 (February 2017): 1463-1474. Full Text

Zhou, X, Zhang, Z-L, Park, J, Tyler, L, Yusuke, J, Qiu, K, Nam, EA, Lumba, S, Desveaux, D, McCourt, P, Kamiya, Y, and Sun, T-P. "The ERF11 Transcription Factor Promotes Internode Elongation by Activating Gibberellin Biosynthesis and Signaling." Plant physiology 171, no. 4 (August 2016): 2760-2770. Full Text

Zentella, R, Hu, J, Hsieh, W-P, Matsumoto, PA, Dawdy, A, Barnhill, B, Oldenhof, H, Hartweck, LM, Maitra, S, Thomas, SG, Cockrell, S, Boyce, M, Shabanowitz, J, Hunt, DF, Olszewski, NE, and Sun, T-P. "O-GlcNAcylation of master growth repressor DELLA by SECRET AGENT modulates multiple signaling pathways in Arabidopsis." Genes & development 30, no. 2 (January 2016): 164-176. Full Text

Acheampong, AK, Hu, J, Rotman, A, Zheng, C, Halaly, T, Takebayashi, Y, Jikumaru, Y, Kamiya, Y, Lichter, A, Sun, T-P, and Or, E. "Functional characterization and developmental expression profiling of gibberellin signalling components in Vitis vinifera." Journal of Experimental Botany 66, no. 5 (March 2015): 1463-1476. Full Text

Sun, T-P. "Plant Science. Sex and the single fern." Science (New York, N.Y.) 346, no. 6208 (October 2014): 423-424. Full Text


Selected Grants

Molecular Mechanism of Master Growth Repressor DELLA Signaling in Arabidopsis awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2022

Plasmonics-Enhanced Optical Imaging Systems for Bioenergy Research awarded by Department of Energy (Co Investigator). 2018 to 2021

Multi-functional Plasmonics Nanoprobes for Cellular Sensing and Imaging awarded by Department of Energy (Co Investigator). 2015 to 2019

Acquisition of a MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometer System at Duke University awarded by North Carolina Biotechnology Center (Major User). 2017 to 2018

Regulation of DELLA Activity by Post-Translational Modifications and Complex Formation in Arabidopsis awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2004 to 2013

Gibberellin Signaling and Parthenocarpic Fruit Development awarded by Department of Agriculture (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2013

Molecular Mechanism of Giberellin Signalling Repression by the DELLA protein RGA in Arabidopsis awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2011

Developmental and Light Regulation of the Gibberellin 3B-Hydroxylase Genes in Arabidopsis awarded by Department of Agriculture (Principal Investigator). 2001 to 2007

Analysis of gibberellin signal transduction pathway in Arabidopsis awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2003 to 2007