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Seed dormancy and germination: understanding the molecular basis to improve seed quality and seedling performance of horticultural and agricultural crops

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Plant seeds and fruits are at the beginning and the end of most important food supply chains that are central to human existence (food security). Plant seed and fruit germination is the most important adaptive early life-history trait and is timed by dormancy to avoid germination at unfavourable weather conditions for subsequent plant establishment and reproductive growth. Adaptation of germination to abiotic stresses and changing environmental conditions is decisive for fitness and survival. Two opposing forces provide the basic physiological mechanism for the control of germination timing and synchrony: The increase in the growth potential of the embryo leading to cell-wall extension growth, and the restraint weakening of the various seed covering layers like endosperm, testa (seed coat), pericarp (fruit coat), as well as artificial envelopes applied by seed technologists. We (’The Seed Biology Place’ - use comparative approaches with model and crop species representing diverse phylogenetic clades and distinct seed types for the identification of evolutionary conserved and species-specific mechanisms that control seed dormancy and germination. To investigate responses to environmental cues and abiotic stresses (especially related to temperature and water availability) we combine population-based threshold modelling, novel biomechanics and engineering techniques, tissue-specific hormone, transcriptome, qRT-PCR, next-generation sequencing, reverse-genetics and mutant analyses to enhance the understanding of seed tissue interactions by integrated cross-species systems biology approaches. Our long term goal is to understand the molecular basis underlying seed dormancy and germination to be able to improve seed quality and seedling performance of horticultural and agricultural crops.


Graeber K, Linkies A, Steinbrecher T, Mummenhoff K, Tarkowská D, Turečková V, Ignatz M, Sperber K, Voegele A, de Jong H, Urbanová T, Strnad T, Leubner-Metzger G (2014). DELAY OF GERMINATION 1 mediates a conserved coat-dormancy mechanism for the temperature- and gibberellin-dependent control of seed germination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 111(34): E3571–E3580
• Graeber K, Voegele A, Büttner-Mainik A, Sperber K, Mummenhoff K, Leubner-Metzger G (2013). Spatiotemporal seed development analysis provides insight into primary dormancy induction and evolution of the Lepidium DELAY OF GERMINATION1 genes. Plant Physiology 161: 1903-1917
• Lee KJD, Dekkers BJW, Steinbrecher T, Walsh CT, Bacic A, Bentsink L, Leubner-Metzger G, Knox JP (2012). Distinct cell wall architectures in seed endosperms in representatives of the Brassicaceae and Solanaceae. Plant Physiology 160: 1551-1566
• Voegele A, Graeber K, Oracz K, Tarkowská D, Jacquemoud D, Turecková V, Urbanová D, Strnad M, Leubner-Metzger G (2012) Embryo growth, testa permeability, and endosperm weakening are major targets for the environmentally regulated inhibition of Lepidium sativum seed germination by myrigalone A. Journal of Experimental Botany 63: 5337-5350, doi: 10.1093/jxb/ers197
• Graeber K, Linkies A, Wood ATA, Leubner-Metzger G (2011). A guideline to family-wide comparative state-of-the-art qRT-PCR analysis exemplified with a Brassicaceae cross-species seed germination case study. The Plant Cell 23: 2045-2063
• Linkies A, Müller K, Morris K, Turečková V, Wenk M, Cadman CSC, Corbineau F, Strnad M, Lynn JR, Finch-Savage WE, Leubner-Metzger G (2009). Ethylene interacts with abscisic acid to regulate endosperm rupture during germination: a comparative approach using Lepidium sativum and Arabidopsis thaliana. The Plant Cell 21: 3803-3822

How good is research at Royal Holloway, University of London in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.00

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

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