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Bloom & bust: how do plants know when to stop flowering?

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We know a very large amount about the signals and mechanisms that lead to the initiation of flowering (the ‘floral transition’) in plants. However, we know very little about how flowering is brought to an end (‘floral arrest’). This is surprising, given that the timing of floral arrest determines the length of the reproductive period, and hence yield, in many crop species. Work in our laboratory on the model species Arabidopsis thaliana suggests that floral arrest is coordinated by two concurrent timing mechanisms. The first timer measure the absolute time since the plant germinated, and causes floral arrest as a function of plant age. The second timer measure photothermal time, and causes floral arrest as a function of the light and temperature conditions the plant has grown in. We believe that these two timing mechanisms interact to allow the plant to alter the duration of flowering in response to environmental conditions, while still ensuring that arrest indeed occurs.
This project aims 1) to identify how environmental stimuli integrate into the timing mechanisms, 2) to start to identify the molecular basis for the two timing mechanisms and 3) to understand how the timing mechanisms cause the inflorescence meristem to enter an ‘arrest competent’ state. The project will use an interdisciplinary approach anchored by molecular genetics, and will use a combination of the model plant Arabidopsis and its close relative oilseed rape (Brassica napus), a major UK crop species. We will exploit the exceptionally well-developed molecular genetic and genomic resources of Arabidopsis to identify transcriptional changes that occur during floral arrest, and to test the role of known light/temperature signalling, circadian clock and meristem maintenance genes in the regulation of floral arrest. We will also use field and glasshouse experiments in oilseed rape, to test the effects of light, temperature and other environmental factors in modulating floral arrest. Ultimately, understanding floral arrest will help us optimise flowering duration in crop species, and therefore maximise yields.

Funding Notes

The Faculty of Biological Sciences is pleased to announce a number of fully-funded PhD studentships to start in Oct 2019, covering academic fees at UK/EU level and providing a stipend at research council rate (£15,009 for 2019-20) for 4 years. Candidates should have, or be expecting, a 2.1 or above at undergraduate level in a relevant subject. A range of projects, spanning the research areas of the faculty, are eligible for funding. Please apply online, clearly stating which project/supervisor you are interested in and including a CV and transcripts.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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