Monday, 19 November 2018

FASEB Mechanisms in Plant Development meeting

Ken Birnbaum and I are putting the finishing touches together for next years FASEB Mechanisms in Plant Development meeting in St Bonaventure. The dates are July 28-August 02 2019, and I hope to see lots of you there!

Monday, 12 November 2018

Part-funding for PhD: fundamental requirements for branching in plants

Supervisor: Dr Jill Harrison
Branching is a key determinant of crop yields because it affects the positioning of organs around stems, and hence light interception and productivity. Identifying the basic mechanisms underlying branching is therefore of considerable relevance to agriculture. Our understanding of mechanisms for branching is limited to flowering plants that have complex shoot development and branching patterns1. This means that it is not possible to block branching without perturbing many other aspects of plant development. Furthermore, flowering plants have complex genome organisations with many genes affecting the same process2.
The only living plants that do not branch are bryophytes such as mosses. Mosses have low genetic complexity, meaning that few genes regulate each developmental process3. My lab has disrupted the function of a single gene in a moss and identified mutants that can branch4. The decision to branch or not is binary. This brings exciting potential to identify the fundamental requirements for branching.
My lab has recently demonstrated that this approach of stripping out developmental and genetic complexity can generate fundamental new insights into plant development in general5. Findings from this project in moss are therefore likely to be transferable to flowering plants including crops. To understand how the switch from one stem to branching can occur, this proposal aims to determine how changes in PIN gene activity can lead to branching during moss development4,6.
Your project will involve four experimental approaches:
1. Characterisation of moss development in wild-type and mutant plants
2. PIN gene expression analyses
3. PIN protein localisation analyses
4. Auxin distribution analyses in wild-type and mutant plants.
The project will provide training at the cutting edge of the plant evolution and development fields. The techniques that you learn will be broadly applicable in the academic biology and biotech sectors. The skills that you learn will be widely transferable to other areas such as science policy and publishing.
1. Domagalska and Leyser (2011). Nature Reviews in Molecular and Cell Biology 12: 211-21.
2. The Arabidopsis genome initiative (2000). Nature 408: 796-815.
3. Rensing et al. (2008). Science 319: 64-69.
4. Bennett et al. (2014). Current Biology 24: 2776-85.
5. Whitewoods et al. (2018). Current Biology 28: 2365-2376.
6. Bennett et al. (2014). Molecular Biology and Evolution 31: 2042-60.
This project is part-funded by the Bristol Centre for Agricultural Innovation, and applicants will need to identify further sources of funds (see info here). The call is open to students from any country. Please apply via the University of Bristol here, and direct informal enquiries to Dr Jill Harrison.