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Grass Crop Growth and Development

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  • Full or part time
    Dr A Richardson
    Dr S Spoel
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Leaf and floral organ shape are intricately linked to plant productivity. In grass crops such as barley, this relationship between shape and productivity directly impacts on grain yield. To modulate yield we therefore need to understand how organ shape is defined. The patterning underlying final organ shape is laid down during the earliest stages of development. In the Plant Shape Lab we combine genetics, 3D imaging, computational modelling, molecular biology, and bioinformatics to ask how grass organs are patterned, how these patterns change over time, and ultimately how these shapes may impact on yield.
One of the most important patterning steps during organ development is the specification of a boundary. Boundaries between distinct populations of cells are required both for organ initiation and for later elaboration of shape. Work in the grass model, maize, has shown that although some genetic components are shared between these different boundaries [1,2] there are distinct grass specific, and tissue specific, genes involved. We are using our multidisciplinary approach to study the underlying regulatory networks that specify boundaries in different developmental contexts to better understand how boundaries modulate grass organ shape.
During this PhD you will learn to use diverse techniques to investigate how grass organs develop and how they are patterned, with a particular focus on organ boundaries. Leveraging the rich genetic resources in barley and maize you will characterise mutants with boundary defects, and develop a model for gene function and boundary specification. Through building a clearer understanding of how boundaries are specified, we can then identify possible targets to modulate plant architecture.

Funding Notes

This opportunity is only open to UK and EU nationals.

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[1] Johnston, Robyn, Minghui Wang, Qi Sun, Anne W. Sylvester, Sarah Hake, and Michael J. Scanlon. "Transcriptomic analyses indicate that maize ligule development recapitulates gene expression patterns that occur during lateral organ initiation." The Plant Cell 26, no. 12 (2014): 4718-4732

[2] Richardson, Annis, and Sarah Hake. "Drawing a Line: Grasses and Boundaries." Plants 8, no. 1 (2019): 4.

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