Simon Chan

Simon Chan

Position Title
(In Memoriam) Associate Professor

Department of Plant Biology


Research Interests

Centromeres: controllers of inheritance
We study basic mechanisms of genetic inheritance, using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Centromeres control chromosome segregation during cell division, because they are the loci at which chromosomes attach to spindle microtubules via the kinetochore protein complex. Centromere DNA in most plants and animals consists of megabases of simple tandem repeats. These sequences can be dispensable for centromere function. Instead, the centromere is epigenetically specified by CENH3, a centromere-specific histone H3 variant that replaces conventional H3 in centromeric nucleosomes, and is essential for recruiting other kinetochore proteins.

We are developing experimental and bioinformatic methods to characterize the large centromeres typical of plants and animals. We are also studying how centromere behavior during meiosis is specialized to create gametes with half the chromosome number of the preceding cell. Lastly, we have developed a way to make plants with chromosomes from only one parent, that can greatly accelerate plant breeding.

Specialties / Focus

  • Chromosome Biology
  • Chromosome Dynamics and Nuclear Function
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Genomics

Professional Societies

  • American Society of Plant Biologists
  • American Society for Cell Biology


  • 2002 PhD Cell Biology UCSF
  • 1996 BS Biochemistry University of Auckland


Ravi, M. and Chan, S.W.L. Haploid plants produced by centromere-mediated genome elimination Nature 464, 615-618 (2010)

Ravi, M., Kwong, P.N., Menorca, R.M.G., Valencia, J.T., Ramahi, J.S., Stewart, J.L., Tran, R.K., Sundaresan, V., Comai, L. and Chan, S.W.L. The rapidly evolving centromere-specific histone has stringent functional requirements in Arabidopsis thaliana Genetics, 186, 461–471 (2010)

Ravi, M., Shibata, F., Ramahi, J.S., Nagaki, K., Chen, C., Murata, M. & Chan, S.W.L. Meiosis-specific loading of the centromere-specific histone CENH3 in Arabidopsis thaliana PLoS Genetics, 7, e1002121 (2011)

Marimuthu, M.P.A.*, Jolivet, S.*, Ravi, M.*, Pereira, L., Davda, J.N., Cromer, L., Wang, L., Nogué, F., Chan, S.W.L.#, Siddiqi, I.# & Mercier, R.# Synthetic clonal reproduction through seeds Science, 331, 876 (2011) (* equal contribution, # corresponding authors)