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: Biosynthesis, Signal Transduction, Action!, 308–28, 2010. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-2686-7_15. Full Text

Strobbia, Pietro, Yang Ran, Bridget M. Crawford, Vanessa Cupil-Garcia, Rodolfo Zentella, Hsin-Neng Wang, Tai-Ping Sun, and Tuan Vo-Dinh. “Inverse Molecular Sentinel-Integrated Fiberoptic Sensor for Direct and in Situ Detection of miRNA Targets..” Analytical Chemistry 91, no. 9 (May 2019): 6345–52. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.analchem.9b01350. Full Text

Crawford, Bridget M., Pietro Strobbia, Hsin-Neng Wang, Rodolfo Zentella, Maxim I. Boyanov, Zhen-Ming Pei, Tai-Ping Sun, Kenneth M. Kemner, and Tuan Vo-Dinh. “Plasmonic Nanoprobes for in Vivo Multimodal Sensing and Bioimaging of MicroRNA within Plants..” Acs Applied Materials & Interfaces 11, no. 8 (February 12, 2019): 7743–54. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.8b19977. Full Text

Shinozaki, Y., K. Ezura, J. Hu, Y. Okabe, C. Bénard, D. Prodhomme, Y. Gibon, T. P. Sun, H. Ezura, and T. Ariizumi. “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). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-30502-w. Full Text

Zentella, Rodolfo, Ning Sui, Benjamin Barnhill, Wen-Ping Hsieh, Jianhong Hu, Jeffrey Shabanowitz, Michael Boyce, et al. “The Arabidopsis O-fucosyltransferase SPINDLY activates nuclear growth repressor DELLA..” Nat Chem Biol 13, no. 5 (May 2017): 479–85. https://doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.2320. Full Text Open Access Copy

Hirano, Yoshinori, Masahiro Nakagawa, Tomoe Suyama, Kohji Murase, Maya Shirakawa, Seiji Takayama, Tai-Ping Sun, and Toshio Hakoshima. “Structure of the SHR-SCR heterodimer bound to the BIRD/IDD transcriptional factor JKD..” Nature Plants 3 (February 17, 2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nplants.2017.10. Full Text

Park, Jeongmoo, Dong-Ha Oh, Maheshi Dassanayake, Khoa Thi Nguyen, Joe Ogas, Giltsu Choi, and Tai-Ping Sun. “Gibberellin Signaling Requires Chromatin Remodeler PICKLE to Promote Vegetative Growth and Phase Transitions..” Plant Physiology 173, no. 2 (February 2017): 1463–74. https://doi.org/10.1104/pp.16.01471. Full Text

Zhou, Xin, Zhong-Lin Zhang, Jeongmoo Park, Ludmila Tyler, Jikumaru Yusuke, Kai Qiu, Edward A. Nam, et al. “The ERF11 Transcription Factor Promotes Internode Elongation by Activating Gibberellin Biosynthesis and Signaling..” Plant Physiology 171, no. 4 (August 2016): 2760–70. https://doi.org/10.1104/pp.16.00154. Full Text

Zentella, Rodolfo, Jianhong Hu, Wen-Ping Hsieh, Peter A. Matsumoto, Andrew Dawdy, Benjamin Barnhill, Harriëtte Oldenhof, et al. “O-GlcNAcylation of master growth repressor DELLA by SECRET AGENT modulates multiple signaling pathways in Arabidopsis..” Genes Dev 30, no. 2 (January 15, 2016): 164–76. https://doi.org/10.1101/gad.270587.115. Full Text

Acheampong, Atiako Kwame, Jianhong Hu, Ariel Rotman, Chuanlin Zheng, Tamar Halaly, Yumiko Takebayashi, Yusuke Jikumaru, et al. “Functional characterization and developmental expression profiling of gibberellin signalling components in Vitis vinifera..” Journal of Experimental Botany 66, no. 5 (March 2015): 1463–76. https://doi.org/10.1093/jxb/eru504. Full Text


Selected Grants

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

Training Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology awarded by National Institutes of Health (Mentor). 2001 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