Natural variation of growth control in Arabidopsis thaliana

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

Standard genetic analysis in model organisms focuses on laboratory-induced mutations in single genes with large phenotypic effects. However, most of the variation that we see in natural populations is due to the sum of small effects, caused by naturally occurring alleles. Each allele (or variant gene) contributes to a particular trait and are known as quantitative trait loci (QTLs). Recent advances in genomic science has made these loci accessible for the first time in several model species, such as Arabidopsis. The primary scientific objective of this project is to define and identify loci responsible for natural variation in shoot apical meristem and leaf growth. The project is based on the recent discovery of geographic cline in leaf growth variation that is based on progressive increased cell size. Using a combination of cellular, molecular and bioinformatics techniques and recombinant inbred lines, the major QTLs will be determined and mapped. Identification of candidate genes and the affected pathways will provide insight into the adaptive significance of this characteristic. The project will provide advanced training in a number of research areas, including high resolution imaging, plant development, molecular biology and project design and management. The results will be of use to botanists, ecologists, cellular and molecular biologists and environmental scientists. They will provide insight into the interaction between the environment and the plant genome at the most basic level and will inform a wide variety of disciplines from environmental ecology to predicting ho plants might respond to climate change.

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