Molecular and phenotypic variation generated through developmental reprogramming in plants

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


Plants are sessile organisms that are regularly exposed to a wide variety of abiotic and biotic stress conditions. Tolerance to fluctuating environmental conditions are thought to require rapid epigenomic modifications to facilitate dynamic changes in global gene expression. These changes are frequently observed to be intergenerationally inherited but show a higher degree of inheritance via asexual reproduction in plants.
Using an inducible embryonic factor system our lab can trigger somatic embryogenesis in a variety of plant tissues. During my PhD I will be studying how tissue of origin effects the epigenomic inheritance of stress tolerance marks following somatic embryogenesis. Following this we will investigate what epigenetic factors are involved in this mode of inheritance and aim to utilize this knowledge to enhance stress tolerance in Arabidopsis and a variety of other crop species such as Wheat and Rice.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 30/09/2015 29/09/2023
1897943 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2017 29/09/2021 Cathal Meehan
Description We have found that by increasing the expression of a gene (how "turned on" a gene is) involved in reproductive development in a vegetative tissue we increase the number of grain-bearing branches (which determine the seed yield) in wheat and rice. We've seen that this leads to an increase in seed yield in glasshouse conditions and are now testing it in field trials. With wheat and rice providing around 40% of the worlds calorific intake this could be quite a profound finding. We're now investigating this mechanism in greater detail to gain further insights into branching in rice and wheat. This directly effects the theme of food security.
Exploitation Route We've been exploring how we might commercialise this research and how its academic finding can contribute to our understanding of branching in wheat and rice.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment