Topic 1: Making roots from stems – A molecular and mutant approach
The production of roots from stems is a fascinating fundamental question about how plants maintain stems cells and can initiate new organs in unexpected places. But, for the commercial industries, the difficulty of producing roots from cuttings is a major impediment to productivity. It impacts forestry, conservation and horticultural industries. We have identified a new hormone pathway that affects rooting from stems (adventitious rooting). This project will involve identification of genes involved in this process and will reveal insights into how these genes are regulated.
Topic 2: Making plants live longer under limited nutrients – A molecular and mutant approach
Annual plants that represent the bulk of food crops as well as most other plants, undergo a controlled senescence process that involves programmed cell death and the redistribution of nutrients. This is usually enhanced under nutrient stress. We have identified a new hormone pathway that affects this process and which can be used to make leaves last a lot longer before they senesce and die. We are interested in the fundamental mechanism enabling these leaves to remain green and healthy even under nutrient deprivation. The outcome of research in this area may be particularly relevant in Australia where most plants are grown on nutrient poor soils.
Topic 3: Is it the hormones or the resources that control plant growth?
Over the last century there has been a real focus on the role of hormones in controlling plant development. Also, we have a strong understanding of how resources control growth, but have largely ignored how they affect development. In our case study of apical dominance in plants, we have shown that hormones affected by shoot tip removal cannot be responsible for inducing shoot branching when the braches form at a considerable distance from the shoot tip. Instead, plant resources are important. We ask the fundamental question of whether the default system in plants is nutrient controlled growth stimulation and whether the hormones evolved to prevent this from spiralling out of control. We will explore how the supply of plant resources to axillary buds is regulated by various nutrient affecting conditions and in various hormone mutants and assays. We will also explore the potential molecular targets of this nutrient signalling.
Topic 4: Identification of genes and pathways controlling shoot branching; a deep sequencing approach
Deep sequencing is the modern approach to identify global changes in gene expression that trigger developmental events. Using an in-house MiSeq instrument we can identify the RNA sequences that change in relative abundance in different treatments or genotypes. One such project underway involves identifying strigolactone responsive genes involved in shoot branching. This project will contribute to that study by following the expression of identified genes via real-time RT-PCR and testing hypotheses regarding their expression using molecular physiology approaches.
Design your own project in collaboration with us
We have available a large range of developmental mutants and have lots of ideas of projects. We would very much enjoy hearing from you about your particular interests in for example, learning a new technique or working on a particular scientific area. In such cases we usually have a few meetings to toss ideas about before settling on a project that fits your current skills and future aspirations.