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Michael Neff

Michael Neff

Director, Molecular Plant Sciences Graduate Program

PO Box 646420
Pullman WA 99164-6420 USA
Phone 509-335-7705
FAX 509-335-8674


B.S. Botany 1988 University of Washington
Ph.D. Botany 1995 University of Washington

Curriculum Vitae 2019 (pdf)


Our lab uses molecular, genetic and biochemical approaches to uncover and describe the interactions between various signaling pathways that modulate plant development. Specifically, we use seedling development in the plant Arabidopsis as a tool for addressing the question: How do signaling pathways modulated by light interact with each other and with those regulated by endogenous hormones to control plant development? Arabidopsis is perfect for this approach due to its small size, rapid lifecycle and completely sequenced genome. Our lab’s research relates to the goal of increasing yield in agricultural crops by studying the photomorphogenic and hormone signaling pathways that regulate plant stature. Learn more about Dr. Neff’s research enhancing plant biomass.


  • Roy, A., Y. Zhai, J. Ortiz, M.M. Neff, B. Mandal, S.K. Mukherjee, and H.R. Pappu*. (accepted) Multiplexed editing of a begomovirus genome restricts escape mutant formation and disease development PLoS ONE
  • Peng, H., and M.M. Neff*. (accepted) CCA1 and ATAF2 differentially suppress cytochrome P450-mediated brassinosteroid inactivation in Arabidopsis Journal of Experimental Botany
  • Zhai, Y., H. Peng, M.M. Neff, and H.R. Pappu*. (2019) Putative auxin and light responsive promoter elements from the Tomato spotted wilt tospovirus genome, when expressed as cDNA, are functional in Arabidopsis Frontiers in Plant Science online June 28th doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00804
  • Tayengwa, R., J. Zhao, C.F. Peirce, B.E. Werner, and M.M. Neff*. (2018) Synopsis of the plant-specific SOB-FIVE-LIKE (SOFL) gene family G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 8; 1281-1290; doi: 10.1534/g3.118.200040
  • Favero, D.S., K.N. Le, and M.M. Neff*. (2017) Brassinosteroid signaling converges with SUPPRESSOR OF PHYTOCHROME B4-#3 to influence the expression of SMALL AUXIN UP RNA genes and hypocotyl growth. Plant Journal 89; 1133-1145; doi: 10.1111/tpj.13451
  • Favero, D.S., C. Jacques, A. Iwase, K.N. Le, J. Zhao, K. Sugimoto, and M.M. Neff*. (2016) SUPPRESSOR OF PHYTOCHROME B4-#3 represses genes associated with auxin signaling to modulate hypocotyl growth in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiology 171: 2701-2716; doi: 10.1104/pp.16.00405
  • Peng, H., J. Zhao, and M.M. Neff*. (2015) ATAF2 integrates Arabidopsis brassinosteroid inactivation and seedling photomorphogenesis. Development 142: 4129-4138; doi: 10.1242/dev.124347
  • Bell, J.L., I.C. Burke*, and M.M. Neff. (2015) Genetic and biochemical evaluation of natural rubber from eastern Washington prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola L.) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63 593-602 doi: 10.1021/jf503934v
  • Zhao, J.*, D. Favero, E. Roalson, J. Qiu, and M.M. Neff. (2014) Insights into the evolution and diversification of the AT-hook motif containing nuclear localized gene family in land plants. BMC Plant Biology 14:266
  • Zhao, J., D. Favero, H. Peng, and M.M. Neff* (2013) The Arabidopsis thaliana AHL family modulates hypocotyl growth redundantly by interacting with each other via the PPC/DUF296 domain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:48 E4688-E4697 doi: 1073/pnas.1219277110
  • Sandhu, K.S. and M.M. Neff (2013) The Arabidopsis gene ATST4a is not a typical brassinosteroids inactivating gene. Plant Signaling and Behavior 8:10, e26847 doi: 10.4161/psb.26847
  • Sandhu, K.S., P.S. Koirala, and M.M. Neff* (2013) The ben1-1 brassinosteroid-catabolism mutation is unstable due to epigenetic modifications of the intronic T-DNA insertion G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 3 1587-1595. doi: 10.1534/g3.113.006353
  • Bell, E.M., W-C Lin, A. Husbands, L. Yu, V. Jaganatha, B. Jablonska, M. Mangeon, M.M. Neff, T. Girke, and P.S. Springer* (2012) Arabidopsis LATERAL ORGAN BOUNDARIES negatively regulates brassinosteroid accumulation to limit growth in organ boundaries. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109 21146-21151 doi:10.1073/pnas.1210789109.
  • Sandhu, K.S., K. Hagely, and M.M. Neff* (2012) Genetic interactions between brassinosteroid-inactivating P450s and photomorphogenic photoreceptors in Arabidopsis thaliana. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics 2 1585-1593.
  • Thornton, L.E.*, H. Peng, and M.M. Neff (2011) Rice CYP734A cytochrome P450s inactivate brassinosteroids in Arabidopsis Planta 234 (6) 1151-1162.
  • Thornton, L.E.*, S.G. Rupasinghe, H. Peng, M.A. Schuler, and M.M. Neff (2010) Arabidopsis CYP72C1 is an atypical cytochrome P450 that inactivates brassinosteroids Plant Molecular Biology 74 (1-2) 167-181.
  • Zhang, J., R. Vankova, J. Malbeck, P.I. Dobrev, Y. Xu, K. Chong, and M.M. Neff* (2009) AtSOFL1 and AtSOFL2 act redundantly as positive modulators of the endogenous content of specific cytokinins in Arabidopsis. PLoS ONE 4 (12) e8236 11 pages.
  • Neff, M.M.*, L. Sanderson, and D. Tedor (2009) Light-mediated germination in lettuce seeds: Resurrection of a classic plant physiology lab exercise. The American Biology Teacher 71 367-370.
  • Borevitz, J., and M.M. Neff (2008) Phenotypic analysis of Arabidopsis mutants: Hypocotyl Length. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols 3 (3) doi:10.1101/pdb.prot4962.
  • Chen, H., J. Zhang, M.M. Neff, S-W Hong, X.W. Deng, and L. Xiong* (2008) Integration of light and abscisic acid signaling during seed germination and early seedling development. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105 4495-4500.
  • Street, I.H., P.K. Shah, A.M. Smith, N. Avery, and M.M. Neff* (2008) The AT-Hook Containing Proteins SOB3/AHL29 and ESC/AHL27 are Negative Modulators of Hypocotyl Growth in Arabidopsis. Plant Journal 54 1-14.
  • Nemri, A., M.M. Neff, M. Burrell, J.D.G. Jones, and D.J. Studholme* (2007) Marker development for the genetic study of natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Bioinformatics 23 3108-3109.
  • Zhang, J., E.L. Wrage, R. Vankova, J. Malbeck, and M.M. Neff* (2006) Overexpression of SOB5 suggests the involvement of a novel plant protein in cytokinin-mediated development. Plant Journal 46 834-848.
  • Ward, J.M., A.M. Smith, P.K. Shah, S.E. Gallanti, H. Yi, A.J. Demianski, E. van der Graaff, B. Keller and M.M. Neff* (2006) A New Role for the AP2 Transcription Factor, LEP, in Gibberellin-Induced Germination is Revealed by the Mis-Expression of a Homologous Gene, SOB2/DRN-like. Plant Cell 18 29-39.
  • Turk, E.M., S. Fujioka, H. Seto, Y. Shimada, S. Takatsuto, S. Yoshida, H. Wang, Q.I. Torres, J.M. Ward, G. Murthy, J. Zhang, J.C. Walker, and M.M. Neff* (2005) BAS1 and SOB7 Act Redundantly to Modulate Arabidopsis Photomorphogenesis via Unique Brassinosteroid Inactivation Mechanisms. Plant Journal 42 23-34.
  • Ward, J.M., C.A. Cufr, M.A. Denzel, and M.M. Neff* (2005) The Dof transcription factor, OBP3, modulates phytochrome and cryptochrome signaling in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 17 475-485.
  • Turk, E.M., S. Fujioka, H. Seto, Y. Shimada, S. Takatsuto, S. Yoshida, M.A. Denzel, Q.I. Torres, and M.M. Neff* (2003) CYP72B1 Inactivates Brassinosteroid Hormones: An Intersection Between Photomorphogenesis and Plant Steroid Signal Transduction. Plant Physiology, 133 1643-1653.
  • Neff, M.M.*, E. Turk, and M. Kalishman (2002) Web-based Primer Design for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Analysis. Trends in Genetics, 18 613-615.
  • Weigel, D*, J.H. Ahn, M.A. Blázquez, J. Borevitz, S.K. Christensen, C. Fankhauser, C. Ferrándiz, I. Kardailsky, E.J. Malancharuvil, M.M. Neff, J.T. Nguyen, S. Sato, Z. Wang, Y. Xia, R.A. Dixon, M.J. Harrison, C.J. Lamb, M.F. Yanofsky, and J. Chory (2000) Activation tagging in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology, 122 1003-1013.
  • Neff, M.M., C. Fankhauser, and J. Chory* (2000) Light: An indicator of time and place. Genes and Development, 14 257-271.
  • Neff, M.M., S.M. Nguyen, E.J. Malancharuvil, S. Fujioka, T. Noguchi, H. Seto, M. Tsubuki, T. Honda, S. Takatsuto, S. Yoshida, and J. Chory* (1999) BAS1: A gene regulating brassinosteroid levels and light responsiveness in Arabidopsis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 96 15316-15323.
  • Neff, M.M. and J. Chory* (1998) Genetic interactions between phytochrome A, phytochrome B and cryptochrome 1 during Arabidopsis development.  Plant Physiology, 118 27-36.
  • Neff, M.M.*, J.D. Neff, J. Chory, and A.E. Pepper (1998) dCAPS, a simple technique for the genetic analysis of single nucleotide polymorphisms: experimental applications in Arabidopsis thaliana genetics.  Plant Journal, 14 387-392.
  • Chory, J.*, M. Chatterjee, R.K. Cook, T. Elich, C. Fankhauser, J. Li, P. Nagpal, M.M. Neff, A. Pepper, D. Poole, J. Reed, and V. Vitart (1996) From seed germination to flowering, light controls plant development via the pigment phytochrome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 93 12066-12071.
  • Blum, D.E., M.M. Neff, and E. Van Volkenburgh* (1994) Light-stimulated cotyledon expansion in the blu3 and hy4 mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana.  Plant Physiology 105: 1433-1436.
  • Neff, M.M. and E. Van Volkenburgh* (1994) Light-stimulated cotyledon expansion in Arabidopsis seedlings: The role of phytochrome B.  Plant Physiology 104: 1027-1032.
  • Geiser, J.R., D. van Tuinen, S.E. Brockerhoff, M.M. Neff and T.N. Davis* (1991) Can calmodulin function without binding calcium? Cell 65: 949-959.

News Articles

Organic farmers get lesson in GMOs

PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Organic producers tend to look at genetically modified foods as anathema, but Tilth Producers of Washington invited a professor of crop biotechnology to address their annual conference.

Michael Neff, a researcher and educator at Washington State University.

Let’s talk GMOs

Experts weigh the pros, cons of GMOs at Tri-State Grain Convention
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) took center stage on the last morning of the 2012 Tri-State Grain Growers Convention. For more than an hour, four experts debated the topic, covering everything from GMO labeling to the possible link between Roundup Ready corn and re-emerging diseases.

Biotech debate rages at grain convention

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — A panel that included researchers and an environmentalist say they disagree over whether genetically modified organisms in agriculture represent a threat to consumers.


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