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Grant Cramer, Ph.D.


Grant Cramer

Contact Information

  • Email:
  • Phone: (775) 784-4204
    Lab: (775) 784-4225
    Cell: (775) 722-2534
  • Fax: (775) 784-1419
  • Office: Howard Medical Sciences 205
  • Mail Stop: 0330
  • Website: Grant Cramer Home Page


  • Ph.D., Plant Physiology, University of California, Davis, 1985
  • M.S., Vegetable Crops, University of California, Davis, 1982
  • B.S., Plant and Soil Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1980


  • Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 6/03 – present
  • Researcher of the Year, 2010, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Sabbatical Fellowship, 11/2006- 5/2007, University of Adelaide, Australia with Dr. Stephen Tyerman
  • Researcher of the Year, 2006, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno
  • Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 6/94- 6/03
  • Sabbatical Fellowship, 6/1996- 5/1997, University of California, Berkeley with Dr. Russell Jones and CSIRO Plant Industry, Canberra, Australia with Dr. Rana Munns
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557. 7/88-6/94
  • Doctoral Dissertation: Na+-Ca2+ Interactions in Roots of Salt-Stressed Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.). Major Professor: Dr. André Läuchli.
  • Master's Thesis: Physiological Responses to Salinity of Two Cultivars of Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.). Major Professor: Dr. Arthur Spu

Research Interests

I enjoy research immensely along with the collaborative exchange and development of ideas with my colleagues. I am fascinated by how life works and the more complex interactions that occur in biology. I think that is why I have been so drawn in my early student years to whole plant physiology and later to systems biology.

My research has spanned 30+ years and focused primarily on salinity stress during the first two decades of my career. I wanted to make more salt tolerant crop plants, crops that can even tolerate seawater irrigation. In the last decade I have changed my focus to abiotic stress tolerance (drought, salinity and cold) of grapes using a systems biology approach.

My recent work has substantiated published research that exposure of Vitis vinifera vines to water-deficits can enhance the aroma, flavor, and color characteristics of grape juice and wine. I have developed an integrated systems biology approach to study the effects of abiotic stress on transcript, protein and metabolite abundance in vegetative and fruit tissues of Vitis vinifera.

Currently, I am focusing my research in five major areas. One major project is on the effects of water deficit and ABA on water-use-efficiency and ABA signaling in grapes.

A second focus is on the effects of ABA on ABA signaling in different tissues. Preliminary data indicate that ABA signaling is quite different in different tissues. The nature of these differences is under examination at both the transcriptomic and proteomic levels.

In my third major project, we recently analyzed whole-genome microarrays of Cabernet Sauvignon berries that span a narrow developmental window when fruit flavors appear in mature fruit, as determined by sensory analysis by Hildegarde Heymann at UC Davis. We have identified a transcription factor that sharply rises and decreases in transcript abundance just at the developmental stage that these fruit flavors appear. This occurs specifically in the berry skin, the source of most fruit flavors. One of my postdocs is actively determining the function of this transcription factor.

In the fourth project, we are examining the effects of drought on stilbene metabolism. Previous research determined that resveratrol synthase transcript abundance was increased in Cabernet Sauvignon by water deficit. Resveratrol concentrations are not affected, but the glycosylated form (piceid) is increased substantially in many but not all varieties that we have examined.

In the fifth project, we have initiated the sequencing (Illumina and PacBio) of the Cabernet Sauvignon genome. The data will be assembled to the existing Pinot Noir model grape genome and annotated using RNA-seq data that we are generated with the aid of the Dr. Massimo Delledonne at the University of Verona. These extra data sets will enhance our abilities to annotate the genes that are expressed in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Class Materials

I am currently teaching two courses: Plant Biology, which is taught at the junior level and Plant Physiology, which is taught at the senior and graduate level.

The Plant Biology course is an introductory course to plants designed to encourage and excite the students about plants. Students are involved in plant collections, plant identification, and a plant growing contest (winner gets dinner for two at their favorite restaurant). The course focuses on timely topics such as environmental issues, medicinal uses of plants, agriculture and biotechnology. These issues are challenged in a debate format throughout the course. There are three teams; one team that is pro issue, one that is con, and one that is judge of the debate. Teams roles are assigned by the instructor and change with each new debate, giving all a chance at each role. The debates help students develop critical thinking skills.

The Plant Physiology course is rigorous. It can be divided into four portions. The first portion of the course focuses on the quantitative aspects of transport (water, ions and sucrose) into the cell and through the plant. The second portion focuses on photosynthesis and respiration, the third portion focuses on growth, hormones and plant development, and the fourth portion attempts to integrate the first three with lectures on plant responses to various environmental stresses. Throughout this course we read scientific papers on topics already discussed in class. This is a group project. Groups work on the paper outside of class with each member having a different role. One student presents the group summary in class. Reading and discussion of scientific papers help students develop critical thinking skills.

I enjoy teaching and like to take creative and innovative approaches (some don't work and have to be abandoned or modified). I incorporate the use of field trips, film, computers and web pages on the internet into my lectures and exercises. I also participate with the Plant-Ed bulletin board on the internet, which is a great source of information and ideas from excellent colleagues from around the world who are interested in teaching Plant Biology.

Selected Publications

  • Cramer, G.R., A. Läuchli, and V.S. Polito. (1985) Displacement of Ca2+ by Na+ from the plasmalemma of root cells. A primary response to salt stress? Plant Physiology 79:207-211. This work developed a new fluorescent technique to measure Na exchange with membrane-associated Ca2+. Displacement of Ca2+ from the plasma membrane is one of the first effects of salinity, affecting membrane integrity and K+ leakage.
  • Cramer, G.R., and D.C. Bowman. (1991) Kinetics of maize leaf elongation. I. Increased yield threshold limits short-term, steady-state elongation rates after exposure to salinity. Journal of Experimental Botany 42:1417-1426 The paper defines a method that enables the measurement for the first time of all growth parameters in Lockhart’s combined growth equation. It was found that salinity inhibited maize leaf elongation by osmotic effects that increased the yield threshold, an apparent property of the cell wall.
  • Cramer, G.R., A. Ergül, J. Grimplet, R.L. Tillett, E.A.R. Tattersall, M.C. Bohlman, D. Vincent, J. Sonderegger, J. Evans, C. Osborne, D. Quilici, K.A. Schlauch, D.A. Schooley and J.C. Cushman. (2007). Water and salinity stress in grapevines: early and late changes in transcript and metabolite profiles. Functional and Integrative Genomics 7:111-134 (DOI: 10.1007/s10142-006-0039-y) (106 citations; 15.14 per year) This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of grapevine response to gradual, more natural occurring isoosmotic water deficit and salinity. The integration of the transcriptomic and metabolite analyses from this unique study reveals the common and distinct differences between salinity and water deficit. In comparison to a later osmotic shock experiment it shows that a gradual, long-term stress induces more complex responses in the vine. One significant result from this study was the greater effects of water deficit compared with salinity on photosynthesis, gluconeogenesis and photorespiration.
  • Deluc, L.G., J. Grimplet, M.D. Wheatley, R.L. Tillet, D. Quilici, C. Osborne, K.A. Schlauch, D.A. Schooley, J.C. Cushman, and G.R. Cramer. (2007). Transcriptomic and metabolite analyses of Cabernet Sauvignon grape berry development. BMC Genomics, 8:429 (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-429). (90 citations; 15.0 per year; highly accessed) This paper provides a comprehensive and integrated transcriptomic and metabolite analysis of berry development. It establishes an extensive catalog of gene expression patterns for future investigations aimed at the dissection of the transcriptional regulatory hierarchies that govern berry development and identified a set of previously unknown genes potentially involved in critical steps associated with fruit development that can now be subjected to functional testing.
  • Deluc, L.G., J. Grimplet, M.D. Wheatley, A. Decendit, K. Schlauch, D. Quilici, J.-M. Mérillon, J.C. Cushman and G.R. Cramer. (2009) Water deficit alters differentially metabolic pathways affecting important flavor and quality traits in grape berries of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. BMC Genomics 10:212 (doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-10-212). (41 citations; 8.20 per year; highly accessed) This paper describes the comprehensive transcriptomic and metabolite analyses of the differential responses of berries of two grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) to water deficit. The metabolic responses of grapes to water deficit varied with the cultivar and fruit pigmentation across seven developmental stages. Water deficit increased the transcript and metabolite abundance of metabolic pathways known to affect berry and wine aromas, and compounds that contribute to human health, resulting in important impacts on berry flavor and quality characteristics. It revealed new pathways that have not been considered before.
  • Cramer, G.R., Urano, K., Delrot, S., Pezzotti, M., Shinozaki, K. (2011). Abiotic stress in plants: a systems biology perspective. BMC Plant Biology 11:163 (10 citations; 3.33 per year) This recent paper is a comprehensive review of the knowledge we have obtained to date on abiotic stress effects on plants using a systems biology approach. It shows that this approach provides novel insights that have led to significant improvements in crop production in the field.
  • Cramer, G.R., S. van Sluyter, D.W. Hopper, D. Pascovici, T. Keighly, P.A. Haynes. (2013). Proteomics analysis indicates massive changes in metabolism prior to the inhibition of growth and photosynthesis of grapevine (Vitis vinifera L.) in response to water deficit. BMC Plant Biology 13:49; doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-49.
  • Nicolas, P, D. Lecourieux, C. Kappel, S. Cluzet, G.R Cramer, S. Delrot, and F. Lecourieux. (2014). The Basic Leucine Zipper Transcription Factor ABSCISIC ACID RESPONSE ELEMENT-BINDING FACTOR2 Is an important transcriptional regulator of abscisic acid-dependent grape berry ripening processes. Plant Physiology 164:365-383
  • Hopper, D.W., R. Ghan, and G.R. Cramer. (2014). A rapid dehydration leaf assay reveals stomatal response differences in grapevine genotypes. Horticulture Research 1: 2; doi:10.1038/hortres.2014.2

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