Control of early embryogenesis by extra-embryonic peptides

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Like animals, plants use asymmetric cell divisions to create pattern and diversity. However, how plants specify and carry out asymmetric divisions is not yet understood. This proposal focuses on uncovering the role of intercellular communication as a mechanism driving asymmetric division of the zygote in plants. We have uncovered a group of peptides expressed in embryo surrounding cells that regulate the early divisions of the zygote. We will use these findings to identify novel components to the network of genes and proteins that are involved in regulating early embryo development and patterning. Through this work we will uncover the molecular processes that allow surrounding tissues to coordinate the development of plant embryos.

Technical Summary

Asymmetric division is integral to plants and animals as it creates pattern and diversity. In plants, asymmetric division is critical in zygotes as it establishes the apical-basal axis and drives embryo patterning at the earliest stage. However, the precise mechanism that regulates this process remains unknown. This proposal will address this significant gap in our knowledge by elucidating the molecular components of a newly identified cell signaling pathway required for correct embryogenesis, which integrates signals derived from the surrounding extra-embryonic tissues. In addition, using genetic and molecular analyses we will uncover the genetic framework that regulates early embryogenesis. Collectively, this work will for the first time provide molecular-genetic and biochemical evidence for embryo surrounding tissues in regulating asymmetric division of the zygote and subsequent embryo patterning in plants.

Planned Impact

Data and material generated from this proposal will be made freely available. In addition, the University of Warwick will exploit IP generated through other aspects of the works. We will engage with industrial beneficiaries with regards to the improvement of seed traits through existing collaborations with two agrobiotechnology partners.
We will disseminate our findings by making our data publicly available through peer-reviewed publications. The resources will be deposit at EMBL-EBI, BMRB and NASC. Training in scientific research skills will be provided to the RPDA, RA by the PI, colleagues at the University of Warwick and by existing collaborations with international researchers. We will disseminate our results to the public through media reports and by interacting directly with the public and plant breeders. Pathways to impact will be monitored and evaluated every six months.


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Wibowo A (2018) Partial maintenance of organ-specific epigenetic marks during plant asexual reproduction leads to heritable phenotypic variation. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Ingram G (2015) Peptide signalling during angiosperm seed development. in Journal of experimental botany

Description We have uncovered that small proteins that surround the zygote regulate embryo development in plants
Exploitation Route yes, scientific publications and research projects
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Funds have been used to allow four school pupils to undertake a week placement in our laboratory. They learned basic molecular biology and microscopy skills.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal

Description BioProNET business interaction voucher
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 12/2017
Description KWS collaboration 
Organisation KWS UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Use of embryonic factors to enhance plant transformation
Collaborator Contribution Use of different transcription factors to enhance plant transfromation
Impact none yet
Start Year 2018