Maureen R. Hanson is Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics. She received a B.S. degree at Duke University and a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University. After completing an NIH postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard, she joined the faculty of the Biology Department at University of Virginia. She moved to Cornell as Associate Professor and was promoted to Professor in 1991. She is presently a member of the graduate Fields of Genetics and Development, Plant Biology, and Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology. She has previously served as Associate Director of the Cornell Biotechnology Program and Director of the Cornell Plant Science Center. She is currently Director for the Center for Enervating Neuroimmune Disease.
Dr. Hanson has two different research programs, related through their dependence on modern methods for examining genome sequences and gene expression. Her research in plant biology has always focused on the genome-containing organelles of plants, chloroplasts and mitochondria. Reflecting their prokaryotic origins, gene expression in these organelles differs from that of nuclear genes. In particular, organelle genes are often organized in operons that undergo considerable post-transcriptional processing, including RNA editing. The nuclear genome exerts significant control of organelle gene expression through the action of nuclear-encoded proteins targeted to the organelle. Research goals include identification of the components of the organelle RNA editing apparatus and an RNA/protein complex that suppresses the expression of an abnormal mitochondrial protein. Another study utilizes synthetic biology methods to introduce CO2-concentrating microcompartments into chloroplasts. A third project concerns engineering of the carbon-fixing enzyme Rubisco in chloroplasts in order to enhance the efficiency of photosynthesis. A second research area is the pathophysiology of the human illness Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). Individuals with this illness often have evidence of immune system activation and dysfunction. One current project is examining metabolism of immune cells and metabolites in plasma. Another project aims to identify differences in gene expression and cargo of extracellular vesicles at baseline and following exercise in healthy and in subjects diagnosed with ME/CFS
Dr. Hanson has taught lab sessions on methods for producing transgenic organisms and on fluorescence microscopy. She has participated in a lecture class concerning genetic engineering for basic research and practical application. She is the coordinator and lecturer in a team-taught class on ethics in biological research.
Awards and Honors
- Fellow (2017) American Society of Plant Biologists
- Liberty Hyde Bailey Professor (1995) Cornell University
- Outstanding Accomplishments in Basic Research (2009) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
- Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty Service (2008) State University of New York
- Lawrence Bogorad Award of the American Society of Plant Biologists (2006)
- Schmidt, J. A., McGrath, J. M., Hanson, M. R., Long, S. P., & Ahner, B. A. (2019). Field-grown tobacco plants maintain robust growth while accumulating large quantities of a bacterial cellulase in chloroplasts. Nature Plants. 5:715–721.
- Germain, A., Ruppert, D., Levine, S. M., & Hanson, M. R. (2018). Prospective biomarkers from plasma metabolomics of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome implicate redox immbalance in disease symptomatology. Metabolites. 8.
- Hanson, M. R., & Hines, K. M. (2018). Stromules: probing formation and function. Plant Physiology. 176:128-137.
- Diaz, M. F., Bentolila, S., Hayes, M. L., Hanson, M. R., & Mulligan, R. M. (2017). A protein with an unusually short PPR domain, MEF8, affects editing at over 60 Arabidopsis mitochondrial C targets of RNA editing. The Plant Journal. 92:638-649.
- Germain, A., Ruppert, D., Levine, S. M., & Hanson, M. R. (2017). Metabolic profiling of a myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome discovery cohort reveals disturbances in fatty acid and lipid metabolism. Molecular BioSystems. 13:371-379.
- Occhialini, A., Myat, L. T., Andralojc, P. J., Hanson, M. R., & Parry, M. A. (2016). Transgenic tobacco plants with improved cyanobacterial Rubisco expression but no extra assembly factors grow at near wild-type rates if provided with elevated CO2. The Plant Journal. 85:148-160.
- Sun, T., Bentolila, S., & Hanson, M. R. (2016). The unexpected diversity of plant organelle RNA editosomes. Trends in Plant Science. 21:962-973.
- Giloteaux, L., Goodrich, J. K., Walters, W. A., Levine, S. M., Ley, R., & Hanson, M. R. (2016). Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome. 4:30.
- Hanson, M. R., Lin, M. T., Carmo-Silva, E., & Parry, M. A. (2016). Towards engineering carboxysomes into C3 plants. The Plant Journal. 87:38-50.
- Billing-Ross, P., Germain, A., Ye, K., Keinan, A., Gu, Z., & Hanson, M. R. (2016). Mitochondrial DNA variants correlate with symptoms in myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Translational Medicine. 14:9.
Presentations and Activities
- Thoughts and Data on ME/CFS. 3rd Annual Community Symposium on the Molecular Basis of ME/CFS . September 2019. Open Medicine Foundation. Stanford, CA.
- Probing plant Rubisco and Carbonic Anhydrase. Acclimation and Chloroplast Biology: from Genes to Systems. August 2019. German Research Foundation. Kloster Irsee, Germany.
- Immune System Research in ME/CFS. Harvard Science Symposium. June 2019. Open Medicine Foundation. Somerville, MA.
- Immune Dysregulation in ME/CFS. 14th Invest in ME Research Conference. May 2019. InvestinME. London, UK.
- The RNA editing complex in flowering plants. Gordon Conference on RNA Editing. March 2019. Gordon Conference Organization. Barga, Italy.
- Biology of a common but neglected disease: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Distinguished Speaker Seminar Series. November 2018. Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology. Okinawa, Japan.
- Engineering Photosynthesis in C3 Plants. Conference on Photosynthesis and Chloroplast Biogenesis. November 2018. Okayama University. Kurashiki, Japan.
- Plant breeding and innovation for carbon-use efficiency. Summit on Realizing the Circular Carbon Economy: Charting a Course for Innovations in Agriculture and Energy. July 2018. Untied States Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy. Golden, CO United States.
- Improving the efficiency of photosynthetic carbon fixation in C3 plants. ASPB/ISPR Photosynthesis from Light to Life. July 2018. International Society of Photosynthesis Research. Montreal, QC Canada.
- Improving the efficiency of photosynthetic carbon fixation in C3 plants. In Vitro Biology Meeting. June 2018. Society for In Vitro Biology. St. Louis, Mo.