Photo of Shelley Hepworth

Shelley Hepworth

Associate Professor

Degrees:B.Sc. (Waterloo), Ph.D. (Toronto)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 4214
Office:Office: 248 Nesbitt Building
Lab: 215 Nesbitt Building
Website:Visit my lab website


The Hepworth Lab is a nationally and internationally integrated research unit at Carleton University. Agriculture is a major sector of the Canadian economy. Population growth coupled with the impacts of climate change has created the demand for a second “green revolution” to improve and stabilize crop productivity. Plant architecture is a major determinant of crop yield. The long-term objective of our research program is to understand how genes control shape and form. This information is valuable in genomics-assisted breeding which seeks to use knowledge of genes and genomes to customize agronomic traits in crop plants.

Plants shape and form relies on the activity of self-maintaining groups of stem cells called meristems. Meristems provide a continuous supply of daughter cells for incorporation of new leaves, flowers, and shoots throughout the life cycle. Our work focuses on the role of organ boundaries located on the meristem periphery. Boundaries are specialized domains of restricted growth that separate the meristem from new organs as they emerge. These domains preserve growth by forming a barrier that allows stem cells to continue propagating in the center of the meristem and organs to continue developing at the periphery. Boundaries are also the source of axillary meristems that give rise to branches and flowers on the inflorescence and the site of abscission zones that control the detachment and dispersal of fruits, leaves, flowers, and seeds. Despite the importance of boundaries in controlling plant architecture, known about genetic networks that control their function during the reproductive phase. Our work is at the forefront of such discoveries.

We work with researchers at the National Research Council Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Brock University and collaborate with a global network of researchers at the James Hutton Institute (Scotland), University of Utrecht (Netherlands), and Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin (France) sharing students, ideas, and resources to improve the speed and efficiency of crop development.

The Hepworth lab is always seeking new students. If you want to learn more about our research, we look forward to hearing from you. Contact the Hepworth lab at For details about specific projects, please visit our website

Selected Publications

S.R. Hepworth, and V. Pautot. (2015) Beyond the divide: boundaries for patterning and stem cell regulation in plants. Frontiers in Plant Science (accepted with revision)

Khan, L. Ragni, P. Tabb, B.C. Salasini, S. Chatfield, R. Datla, J. Lock, X. Kuai, C. Despres, M. Proveniers, H. Morin, J.P. Rulliere, S. Citerne, S.R. Hepworth, and V. Pautot. (2015) Plant Physiology (in press)

M. Khan, H. Xu, and S.R. Hepworth. (2014) BLADE-ON-PETIOLE genes: setting boundaries in development and defense. Plant Science 215-216, 157-171.

M. Khan, P. Tabb, and S.R. Hepworth. (2012) BLADE-ON-PETIOLE1 and 2 regulate Arabidopsis inflorescence architecture in conjunction with homeobox genes KNAT6 and ATH1. Plant Signaling and Behavior 7, 788-792.

M. Khan, M. Xu, J. Murmu, P. Tabb, Y. Liu, K. Storey, S.M. McKim, C.J. Douglas, and S.R. Hepworth (2012). Antagonistic interaction of BLADE-ON-PETIOLE1 and 2 with BREVIPEDICELLUS and PENNYWISE regulates Arabidopsis inflorescence architecture. Plant Physiology 158,946-960.

J. Murmu, M.J. Bush, C. DeLong, S. Li, M. Xu, M. Khan, C. Malcolmson, P.R. Fobert, S. Zachgo, S.R. Hepworth. (2010) Arabidopsis bZIP transcription factors TGA9 and TGA10 interact with floral glutaredoxins ROXY1 and ROXY2 and are redundantly required for anther development. Plant Physiology 154, 1492-1504

M. Xu, T. Hu, S. McKim, G.W. Haughn and S. R. Hepworth. (2010) Arabidopsis BLADE-ON-PETIOLE1 and 2 promote floral meristem fate and determinacy in a previously undefined pathway targeting APETALA1 and AGAMOUS-LIKE24. Plant Journal 63, 974-989.

S.M. McKim, G.-E. Stenvik, M.A. Butenko, W. Kristiansen, S.K. Cho, S.R. Hepworth, R.B. Aalen and G.W. Haughn. (2008) The BLADE-ON-PETIOLE genes are essential for abscission zone formation in Arabidopsis. Development 135, 1537-1546.

R. Kumar, K. Kushalappa, D. Godt, M.S. Pidkowich, S. Pastorelli, S.R. Hepworth, and G.W. Haughn. (2007) The Arabidopsis BEL1-LIKE HOMEODOMAIN proteins SAW1 and SAW2 act redundantly to regulate KNOX expression spatially in leaf margins. Plant Cell 19, 2719-2735.

S.R. Hepworth, J. Klenz, and G.W. Haughn. (2006) UFO in the Arabidopsis inflorescence apex is required for floral meristem identity and bract suppression. Planta 223, 769-778.

S.R. Hepworth, Y. Zhang, X. Li, S. McKim, and G.W. Haughn. (2005) BLADE-ON-PETIOLE-dependent signaling controls leaf and floral patterning in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 17, 1-15.