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Plant and crop fertility: the evolution and impact of gene control networks

About This PhD Project

Project Description

This project will explore the conservation and mechanisms by which the DUO1-DAZ1 module coordinates cell proliferation with sperm differentiation. Studies of gene function will involve those in crop species including tomato, as well as in early land plant models. Genetic and molecular analyses will be combined with comparative transcriptome studies to uncover co-expression and co-function gene networks. This will help to discover novel plant fertility genes of potential value. Overall, the project seeks to establish how gene function and evolution has shaped the fertility of some of our important food crops, starting from their earliest origins.

From an applied perspective, the research is also expected to deliver novel information and tools of value in plant breeding applications such as hybrid seed production and the control of gene flow.

UK/EU applicants only.

Entry requirements:
Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject.
The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable:

How to apply:
Please refer carefully to the application guidance and apply using the online application link at

Project / Funding Enquiries:
Application enquiries to
Closing date for applications: Sunday 12th January 2020


Borg, M., et al. (2011) The R2R3 MYB transcription factor DUO1 activates a male germline-specific regulon essential for sperm cell differentiation in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 23:1-16.

Borg, M., et al. (2014). An EAR-dependent regulatory module promotes male germ cell division and sperm fertility in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 26:1-17.

Brownfield, L., et al. (2009) A plant germ cell-specific integrator of cell cycle progression and sperm specification PLoS Genetics 5: e1000430.

Berger, F. and Twell, D. (2011) Germline specification and function in plants. Annual Review of Plant Biology 62:461-484.

Higo et al., (2018) Transcription factor DUO1 generated by neo-functionalization is associated with evolution of sperm differentiation in plants. Nature Communications 9, 5283.

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