Thursday, 4 December 2014

Sainsbury 4-year PhD studentship available: The evolution of plant body plans.

A major goal in biology is to identify the genetic changes that underpinned the evolution of morphological novelty.
Plants colonized land over 450 million years ago and underwent independent radiations in body plan in both the haploid (gametophyte) and diploid (sporophyte) stages of the life cycle during evolution [1].
The earliest land plants had gametophyte dominant life cycles and principally colonized space by spreading across planar surfaces, and a capacity for three dimensional shoot growth was a key innovation in gametophyte evolution. The rise of the vascular plants was accompanied by suite of sporophytic innovations including branching and indeterminate shoot growth.
By modifying moss development using reverse genetics, Dr Harrison’s lab has recently identified mutations causing a defective 2D to 3D transition in a moss, and mutations that can induce sporophytic branching [2, 3].
Your project will build on these advances to identify molecular determinants of body plan in early diverging land plant lineages.
Please contact Jill if you would like to apply for this studentship (; Cambridge students also welcome to discuss!
[1] Pires and Dolan (2012). Morphological evolution in land plants: new designs with old genes. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. 367: 508-518.
[2] Bennett et al. (2014a). Plasma membrane targeted PIN proteins regulate shoot development in a moss. Current Biology 24: 1-10.
[3] Bennett et al. (2014b). Paralogous radiations of PIN proteins with multiple origins of non-canonical PIN structure. Molecular Biology and Evolution (doi:molbev.msu147).

250 Great Minds at the University of Leeds

Dr Harrison presented new results on the early evolution of branching mechanisms in land plants at the University of Leeds.
The University has instigated a major recruitment drive (see at all levels from PhD to PI to address major strategic challenges in Biology. It will appoint with cross complementarity between departments to address then, and is starting to talk to interested parties- an exciting opportunity for change!