Robert M. Larkin


Robert M. Larkin  Professor, Ph.D. Supervisor

Contact phone: 134-7628-6648



1988   BS, Biochemistry, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

1996   PhD, Biochemistry, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Employment History:

1997    Postdoctoral Research Associate, laboratory of Dr. Tom J. Guilfoyle, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

1997-1999  USDA Postdoctoral Fellow, laboratory of Dr. Joanne Chory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA

1999-2002  HHMI Postdoctoral Fellow, laboratory of Dr. Joanne Chory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA

2003-2010  Assistant Professor, Michigan State University Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

2010-2014  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Michigan State University Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

2014-2015  Visiting Assistant Professor Fixed Term, Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

2016-present   Professor, College of Horticulture and Forestry Science, Huazhong Agricultural University. Wuhan, P.R. China

To earn my PhD, I studied the general transcription machinery in plants, focusing mostly on nuclear DNA-dependent RNA polymerases. As a postdoc, I studied signaling mechanisms that chloroplasts use to regulate gene expression in the nucleus. During my first faculty position, my laboratory studied signaling mechanism and processes that contribute to organelle biogenesis and function in plants, especially chloroplast biogenesis and function.


Research interests:

We use biochemistry, cell biology, and genetics to study plastid development and function in horticultural crops and in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In horticultural crops, we are studying the relationship between the development and function of chloroplasts and the nutritional quality and yield of these crops.

As of 2019, research topics in my laboratory include:

1. In both lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa), we are studying genes that promote the accumulation of chlorophyll and we are studying the relationship between the accumulation of chlorophyll and both the accumulation of nutritionally significant metabolites and yield.

2. In Arabidopsis thaliana and horticultural crops, we are studying a mechanism that helps to allocate cellular space to chloroplasts.

3. In Arabidopsis thaliana, we are studying signaling mechanisms and processes that promote the biogenesis and function of chloroplasts.


1. Larkin (2019) RNA editing implicated in chloroplast-to-nucleus communication. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 116: 9701-9703. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1905566116.

2. Song L, Chen Z and Larkin RM. (2018) The gun mutants are more sensitive to norflurazon than wild type. Plant Physiol. 178: 965-971. doi: 10.1104/pp.18.00982.

3. Larkin RM (2016) Tetrapyrrole signaling in Plants. Front. Plant Sci. 7:1586.

4. Larkin RM, Stefano G, Ruckle ME, Stavoe AK, Sinkler CA, Brandizzi F, Malmstrom CM and Osteryoung KW (2016) REDUCED CHLOROPLAST COVERAGE genes from Arabidopsis thaliana help to establish the size of the chloroplast compartment. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 113: E111-E1125.

5. Larkin RM. (2014) Influence of plastids on light signaling and development. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 369: 20130232.

6. Larkin R (2014) Cytoplasm: Chloroplast signaling. In Howell S. (Ed.) The Plant Sciences. Molecular Biology: Springer Reference ( SpringerVerlag Berlin Heidelberg.2014-02-20 08:07:05 UTC. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4939-0263-7_10-1.

7. Kadirjan-Kalbach D, Yoder DW, Ruckle ME, Larkin RM and Osteryoung KW. (2012) FtsHi1/ARC1 is an essential gene in Arabidopsis that links chloroplast biogenesis and division. Plant J. 72: 856-867.

8. Ruckle ME, Burgoon LD, Lawerence L, Sinkler CA and Larkin RM. (2012) Plastids are major regulators of light signaling in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 159: 366-390.

9. Adhikari ND, Froehlich JE, Strand DD, Buck SM, Kramer DM, and Larkin RM. (2011) GUN4-porphyrin complexes bind the ChlH/GUN5 subunit of Mg-chelatase and promote chlorophyll biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 23: 1449-1467.

10. Ruckle ME and Larkin RM (2009) Plastid signals that regulate photomorphogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana are dependent on GENOMES UNCOUPLED 1 and cryptochrome 1. New Phytol 182: 367-379.

11. Adhikari ND, Orler R, Chory J, Froehlich JE, and Larkin RM (2009) Porphyrins promote the association of GENOMES UNCOUPLED 4 and a Mg-chelatase subunit with chloroplast membranes. J Biol Chem 284: 24783-24796.

12. Larkin RM and Ruckle ME (2008) Integration of light and plastid signals. Curr Opin Plant Biol 11, 593-599.

13. Gao H, Brandizzi F, Benning C, and Larkin RM (2008) A membrane-tethered transcription factor defines a branch of the heat stress response in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proc Natl AcadSci USA 105:16398-16403.

14. Ruckle ME, DeMarco SM, and Larkin RM (2007) Plastid signals remodel light signaling networks and are essential for efficient chloroplast biogenesis in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 19: 3944-3960.

15. Larkin RM, Chory J (2006) A role for chlorophyll precursors in plastid-to-nucleus signaling. In E Schaefer, F Nagy, eds, Photomorphogenesis in Plants and Bacteria: Function and Signal Transduction Mechanisms. Springer, The Netherlands, pp 499-513.

16. Verdecia MA, Larkin RM, Ferrer J-L, Riek R, Chory J, and Noel JP (2005) Structure of the Mg-chelatase cofactor GUN4 reveals a novel hand-shaped fold for porphyrin binding. PLoS Biol 3: e151.

17. Larkin RM, Alonso JM, Ecker JR, Chory J (2003) GUN4, a regulator of chlorophyll synthesis and intracellular signaling. Science 299: 902-906.

18. Surpin M, Larkin RM, Chory J (2002) Signal transduction between the chloroplast and the nucleus. Plant Cell 14: S327-S338.

19. Mochizuki N, Brusslan JA, Larkin R, Nagatani A, Chory J (2001) Arabidopsis genomes uncoupled 5 (GUN5) mutant reveals the involvement of Mg-chelatase H subunit in plastid-to-nucleus signal transduction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98: 2053-2058.

20. Larkin RM, Hagen G, Guilfoyle TJ (1999) Arabidopsis thaliana RNA polymerase II subunits related to yeast and human RPB5. Gene 23: 41-47.

21. Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1998) Two small subunits in Arabidopsis RNA polymerase II are related to yeast RPB4 and RPB7 and interact with one another. J Biol Chem 273: 5631-5637.

22. Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1997) Reconstitution of yeast and Arabidopsis RNA polymerase a-like subunit heterodimers. J Biol Chem 272: 12824-12836.

23. Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1996) A 14-kDa Arabidopsis thaliana RNA polymerase III subunit contains two a-motifs flanked by a highly charged C terminus. Gene 172: 211-215.

24. Ulmasov T, Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1996) Association between 36- and 13.6-kDa a-like subunits of Arabidopsis thaliana RNA polymerase II. J Biol Chem 271: 5085-5094.

25. Ulmasov T, Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1995) Arabidopsis expresses two genes that encode polypeptides similar to the yeast RNA polymerase I and III AC40 subunit. Gene 167: 203-207.

26. Guilfoyle T, Ulmasov T, Larkin R (1994) RNA polymerase genes. Plant Mol Biol Rep 12: S63-S66.

27. Larkin RM, Guilfoyle TJ (1993) The second largest subunit of RNA polymerase II from Arabidopsis thaliana. Nucleic Acids Res 21: 1083.