Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Natasha Yelina

Natasha Yelina

Head of the Crop Breeding Technologies group
Crop breeding technologies

ne240 [at]

Natasha studies plant meiosis – a specialized cell division during sexual reproduction that results in gametes (egg and sperm) with half the genetic material of mother cells. Meiosis is unique because during meiosis parental chromosomes physically exchange parts, or recombine. This leads to new trait combinations in offspring and this genetic variation is the basis for selective crop breeding. Despite their importance for breeding, meiotic recombination events, or crossovers, are limiting: they are low in numbers (1-3 per chromosome per meiosis) and are unevenly distributed along chromosomes. As a result, not all traits are equally amenable to reassortment via recombination. Natasha’s work contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms of recombination control and highlighted the role of epigenetic marks (cytosine DNA and histone methylation) in shaping crossover frequency landscapes along chromosomes.

Natasha received her BA, MSc and PhD from the Department of Virology at Moscow State University in Russia where she worked on RNA silencing in plant-virus interactions. Over the following years, she received Royal Society/NATO, EMBO and Broodbank Postdoctoral Fellowships to join Prof Sir David Baulcombe’s and Prof Ian Henderson’s labs in the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich and Department of Plant Sciences in Cambridge, respectively, to pursue her interests in RNA silencing, epigenetics and plant meiosis. More recently, she contributed to research in Prof Julian Hibberd’s lab at the Department of Plant Sciences in Cambridge where she used Marchantia polymorpha to identify ancestral and non-ancestral pathways regulating chloroplast biogenesis and greening. She is now head of Crop Breeding Technologies Group at the Crop Science Centre where her overarching aim is to discover novel approaches to control meiotic recombination and, building on this fundamental knowledge, develop step-changing technologies to accelerate crop breeding.



Yelina NE, Gonzalez-Jorge S, Hirsz D, Yang Z and Henderson IR. (2021) CRISPR targeting of MEIOTIC-TOPOISOMERASE VIB-dCas9 to a recombination hotspot is insufficient to increase crossover frequency in Arabidopsis. doi:


Yelina NE, Lambing C, Hardcastle TJ, Zhao X, Santos B, and Henderson IR (2015) DNA methylation epigenetically silences crossover hot spots and controls chromosomal domains of meiotic recombination in Arabidopsis. Genes Dev 29:2183-202.


Yelina N, Diaz P, Lambing C, Henderson I.R. (2015) Epigenetic control of meiotic recombination in plants. Sci China Life Sci, 58:223-31.


Yelina NE, Ziolkowski PA, Miller N, Zhao X, Kelly KA, Muñoz DF, Mann DJ, Copenhaver GP, Henderson IR (2013) High-throughput analysis of meiotic crossover frequency and interference via flow cytometry of fluorescent pollen in Arabidopsis thaliana. Nat Protoc, 8:2119-34.


Yelina N, Choi K, Chelysheva L, Macaulay M, de Snoo B, Wijnker E, Miller N, Drouaud J, Grelon M, Copenhaver GP, Mezard C, Kelly KA and Henderson IR (2012) Epigenetic remodeling of meiotic crossover frequency in Arabidopsis DNA methyltransferase mutants. PLoS Genetics, 8: e1002844.


Yelina N, Smith LM, Jones A, Studholme DJ, and Baulcombe DC (2010). Arabidopsis THO/TREX mRNA export complex is involved in endogenous siRNA biosynthesis. PNAS, 107:13948-53.


Yelina, NE, Savenkov, EI, Solovyev, AG, Morozov SY, and Valkonen JP (2002). Long-distance movement, virulence, and RNA silencing suppression controlled by a single protein in Hordei- and Potyviruses: Complementary functions between virus families. Journal of Virology, 76, 12981-91.


Choi K., Yelina NE, Serra H, Henderson IR (2017) Quantification and Sequencing of Crossover Recombinant Molecules from Arabidopsis Pollen DNA. Methods Mol Biol 1551:23-57.


Naish M, Alonge M, Wlodzimierz P, Tock AJ, Abramson BW, Schmücker A, Mandáková T, Jamge B, Lambing C, Kuo P, Yelina N, Hartwick N, Colt K, Smith LM, Ton J , Kakutani  T, Martienssen  RA, Schneeberger K , Lysak MA, Berger F, Bousios A, Michael TP, Schatz MC, Henderson  IR. (2021) The genetic and epigenetic landscape of the Arabidopsis centromeres. Science 374(6569):eabi7489.


Choi K, Zhao X, Tock AJ, Lambing C, Underwood CJ, Hardcastle TJ, Serra H, Kim J, Cho HS, Kim J, Ziolkowski PA, Yelina NE, Hwang I, Martienssen RA, Henderson IR. (2018) Nucleosomes and DNA methylation shape meiotic DSB frequency in Arabidopsis thaliana transposons and gene regulatory regions. Genome Res 28(4):532-546.


Choi K, Reinhard C, Serra H, Ziolkowski PA, Underwood CJ, Zhao X, Hardcastle TJ, Yelina NE, Griffin C, Jackson M, Mézard C, McVean G, Copenhaver GP, Henderson IR (2016) Recombination Rate Heterogeneity within Arabidopsis Disease Resistance Genes. PLoS Genet 14;12(7):e1006179.


Ziolkowski PA, Berchowitz LE, Lambing C, Yelina NE, Zhao X, Kelly KA, Choi K, Ziolkowska L, June V, Sanchez-Moran E, Franklin C, Copenhaver GP, Henderson IR (2015) Juxtaposition of heterozygous and homozygous regions causes reciprocal crossover remodelling via interference during Arabidopsis meiosis. Elife 27;4. doi: 10.7554/eLife.03708.


Choi K, Zhao X, Kelly KA, Venn O, Higgins JD, Yelina NE, Hardcastle TJ, Ziolkowski PA, Copenhaver GP, Franklin FC, McVean G, Henderson IR (2013) Arabidopsis meiotic crossover hot spots overlap with H2A.Z nucleosomes at gene promoters. Nat Genet, 45:1327-36.


Smith LM, Pontes O, Searle I, Yelina N, Yousafzai FK, Pikaard CS, and Baulcombe DC (2007). A novel SNF2 helicase associated with nuclear RNA silencing and spread of a silencing signal between cells. Plant Cell, 19:1507-21.


Hernandez-Pinzon I, Yelina NE, Schwach F, Studholme DJ, Baulcombe DC and Dalmay T (2007). SDE5 - the putative homologue of a human mRNA export factor is required for transgene silencing and accumulation of trans-acting endogenous siRNA. Plant Journal, 50:140-8.


MacLean D, Elina N, Havecker ER, Heimstaedt SB, Studholme DJ, Baulcombe DC (2010) Evidence for large complex networks of plant short silencing RNAs. PLoS One, 5:e9901.


Rakitina DV, Yelina NE, Kalinina NO (2006) Zinc ions stimulate the cooperative RNA binding of hordeiviral gamma-b protein. FEBS Letters 580, 5077-83. 


Lukhovitskaya NI, § Yelina NE, § Zamyatnin AA Jr, Schepetilnikov MV, Solovyev AG, Sandgren M, Morozov SY, Valkonen JP, Savenkov EI (2005). Expression, localization and effects on virulence of the cysteine-rich 8 kDa protein of Potato mop-top virus. Journal of General Virology, 86, 2879-89.  (§ joint first authors)    

Yelina NE, Erokhina TN, Lukhovitskaya NI, Minina EA, Schepetilnikov MV, Lesemann D-E, Schiemann J, Solovyev AG and Morozov SYu (2005). Localization of Poa semilatent virus cysteine-rich protein in peroxisomes is dispensable for its ability to suppress RNA silencing. Journal of General Virology, 86, 479-89.


Gorshkova EN, Erokhina TN, Stroganova TA, Yelina NE, Zamyatnin AA Jr, Kalinina NO, Schiemann J, Solovyev AG, Morozov SY (2003). Immunodetection and fluorescent microscopy of transgenically expressed hordeivirus TGBp3 movement protein reveals its association with endoplasmic reticulum elements in close proximity to plasmodesmata. Journal of General Virology, 84, 985-94.


Fedorkin ON, Solovyev AG, Yelina NE, Zamyatnin AA Jr, Zinovkin RA, Makinen K, Schiemann J, Morozov SYu (2001). Cell-to-cell movement of potato virus X involves distinct functions of the coat protein. Journal of General Virology, 82, 449-458.


Kalinina NO, Rakitina DA, Yelina NE, Zamyatnin AA Jr, Stoganova TA, Klinov DV, Prokhorov VV, Ustinova SV, Chernov BK, Schiemann J, Solovyev AG, and Morozov SYu (2001). RNA-binding properties of the 63-kDa protein encoded by the triple gene block of poa semilatent horedivirus. Journal of General Virology, 82, 2569-78.

The genetic and epigenetic landscape of the Arabidopsis centromeres
Matthew Naish, Michael Alonge, Piotr Wlodzimierz, Andrew J Tock, Bradley W Abramson, Anna Schmücker, Terezie Mandáková, Bhagyshree Jamge, Christophe Lambing, Pallas Kuo, Natasha Yelina, Nolan Hartwick, Kelly Colt, Lisa M Smith, Jurriaan Ton, Tetsuji Kakutani, Robert A Martienssen, Korbinian Schneeberger, Martin A Lysak, Frédéric Berger, Alexandros Bousios, Todd P Michael, Michael C Schatz, Ian R Henderson Science (New York, N.Y.) 2021-11-11 pmid:34762468 doi:10.1126/science.abi7489

Epigenetic control of meiotic recombination in plants
Natasha Yelina, Patrick Diaz, Christophe Lambing, Ian R Henderson Science China. Life sciences 2015-02-06 pmid:25651968 doi:10.1007/s11427-015-4811-x