Plant Molecular and Bioinformatics Center (PMBC)


Purpose Statement

The Plant Molecular & Bioinformatics Center (PMBC) at Northern Illinois University was established in 1985 by the Illinois Board of Regents as an autonomous Center of Excellence within the Departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry & Biochemistry. Located in Montgomery Hall on the NIU campus, the Center provides a locus for the promotion, coordination and facilitation of research and instruction activities relevant to plant molecular biology and plant biotechnology. The Center is also concerned with the transfer and application of this technology to public and private enterprises. While partially supported by the state of Illinois, the PMBC receives additional funding through research grants and contributions.

Research Activities 

Research activities at the PMBC focus on molecular aspects of plant stress.  Plants are sessile organisms. Consequently they have to adapt constantly to fluctuations in the environment.  We study plant stress at various levels including biotic stress and abiotic stress.  Research on biotic stresses includes the molecular mechanisms used by viruses or fungi to incite disease and to resist infection by plants, but also of the effect of environment on self-compatibility during pollination. Research on abiotic stress involves the role of such factors as temperature, light or nutrients.  The PMBC laboratories collect basic knowledge about the relevant processes and disseminate this basic knowledge. The PMBC is obtaining fundamental data on the ways plants respond and adapt to environmental stress with the ultimate goal of applying this knowledge for plant modification so they can tolerate those stresses  The research involves important crops such as barley, corn, rice, peas and soybeans, as well as model plants such as tobacco, Arabidopsis thaliana, and Petunia hybrida.  Still other species are studied because they are phylogenetically significant, of concern for conservation, or serve as useful models of physiology, host-parasite interactions or long-term adaptation to the environment. The PMBC supports a Core DNA Laboratory that provides services to NIU researchers including DNA sequencing, genotyping, and Quantitative Real-Time PCR.  These services are available to other individuals and entities on a contractual basis.

Instructional Activities

An important mission of the PMBC is to train undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows and research specialists, in technical and theoretical methodologies relevant to plant molecular biology, biotechnology and genetic engineering. The PMBC faculty teach regular university courses and provide individual instruction to students carrying out experimental research in their laboratories. 

Dissemination and Development Activities

The PMBC is dedicated to disseminating the research results of its faculty to the professional community and to the public. This is done via publications in scientific journals, presentations at national and international conferences, seminars for both professional audiences and the general public, and articles in the popular press. More applied results are being patented and licensed through the Technology Commercialization Office at Northern Illinois University.

Molecular Core Lab

The PMBC coordinates and supports a core lab that assists the researchers with their molecular experiments and provides general analytical services including DNA sequencing, oligonucleotide primer synthesis, real-time PCR, and genotyping. For more information click here: Molecular Core Lab

For more information, contact:

Dr. Thomas Sims, PMBC Director
Northern Illinois University
342 Montgomery Hall
DeKalb, IL 60115-2861
815-753-7817 telephone
815-753-7855 FAX

PMBC Faculty

Nicholas Barber, ecology, conservation ecology

Jozef Bujarski - plant virology, plant-microbe interactions

Melvin Duvall - plant molecular evolutionary biology

Scott Grayburn - molecular core lab, renewable biofuel, algae viruses

Gabriel Holbrook - retired

Mitrick Johns - plant molecular genetics

Thomas Sims - Read about the late Professor Thomas Sims' work as the leader of an international team of scientists working on the sequencing of the Petunia Genome.

Yanbin Yin, bioinformatics