Prof Enrico Coen

Project Leader
Cell and Developmental Biology

Enrico’s research investigates how complex shapes and patterns are produced in plants through genetic and developmental control.

Enrico uses the model plants Antirrhinum, Utricularia and Arabidopsis to investigate flower and leaf growth.

Enrico is interested in shape and pattern, from the cellular to evolutionary level, and uses microscopy, genomics and mathematical modelling techniques to generate broadly applicable mechanisms of development, adaptation and speciation in Antirrhinum

  • Control of plant growth to provide complex patterns and shapes
  • Genetic and developmental control of plant development
  • Experimental and theoretical approaches to understanding plant fitness and evolution


How do small groups of cells in microscopic buds turn themselves into the diverse flower and leaf shapes we see around us?

To answer this question we need to know how genes and growth interact to create tissue shapes during development, and how this process varies to produce such a remarkable range of forms.

Enrico's group use a highly integrative approach that combines molecular, genetic, imaging, population, ecological and computational approaches to address this problem, applying them to model systems such as Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum.

Through collaborations with Andrew Bangham, Veronica Grieneisen and Stan Marée, they have been able to arrive at mechanistic models for how complex tissue shapes may be generated through combinatorial interactions between genes, polarity and local growth properties.

The group also collaborate with population geneticist Nick Barton to understand the evolution of complex traits in natural populations and species of Antirrhinum.

How Snapdragons keep their colour: signposting trick reveals evolutionary mechanism

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Seeing the bigger picture: imaging technique widens our view on the inner worlds of plants and their guests

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New research on why plant tissues have a sense of direction

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Picasso, pottery and plants: Prof Enrico Coen's 2016 Croonian Lecture at the Royal Society

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Selected Publications

Abley K., De Reuille P. B., Strutt D., Bangham A., Prusinkiewicz P., Maree A. F., Grieneisen V. A., Coen E. (2013)

An intracellular partitioning-based framework for tissue cell polarity in plants and animals.

Development 140 p2061-74

Publisher’s version: 10.1242/dev.062984

Sauret-Güeto S., Schiessl K., Bangham A., Sablowski R., Coen E. (2013)

JAGGED Controls Arabidopsis Petal Growth and Shape by Interacting with a Divergent Polarity Field.

PLoS Biology 11 pe1001550

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001550

Kuchen E. E., Fox S., de Reuille P. B., Kennaway R., Bensmihen S., Avondo J., Calder G. M., Southam P., Robinson S., Bangham A., Coen E. (2012)

Generation of leaf shape through early patterns of growth and tissue polarity.

Science 335 p1092-6

Publisher’s version: 10.1126/science.1214678

Robinson S., de Reuille P., Chan J., Bergmann D., Prusinkiewicz P., Coen E. S. (2011)

Generation of spatial patterns through cell polarity switching

Science 333 p1436-1440

Kim M., Cui M. L., Cubas P., Gillies A., Lee K., Chapman M. A., Abbott R. J., Coen E. (2008)

Regulatory genes control a key morphological and ecological trait transferred between species

Science 322 p1116-1119

Recent Publications

Mansfield C., Newman J. L., Olsson T. S. G., Hartley M., Chan J., Coen E. (2018)

Ectopic BASL Reveals Tissue Cell Polarity throughout Leaf Development in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Current Biology

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.06.019

Coen E., Kennaway R., Whitewoods C. (2017)

On genes and form.

Development (Cambridge, England) 144 p4203-4213

Publisher’s version: 10.1242/dev.151910

Bradley D., Xu P., Mohorianu I. I., Whibley A., Field D., Tavares H., Couchman M., Copsey L., Carpenter R., Li M., Li Q., Xue Y., Dalmay T., Coen E. (2017)

Evolution of flower color pattern through selection on regulatory small RNAs.

Science 358 p925-928

Publisher’s version: 10.1126/science.aao3526

Le Garrec J. F., Domínguez J. N., Desgrange A., Ivanovitch K. D., Raphaël E., Bangham J. A., Torres M., Coen E., Mohun T. J., Meilhac S. M. (2017)

A predictive model of asymmetric morphogenesis from 3D reconstructions of mouse heart looping dynamics.

eLife 6

Publisher’s version: 10.7554/eLife.28951

Rebocho A. B., Kennaway J. R., Bangham J. A., Coen E. (2017)

Formation and Shaping of the Antirrhinum Flower through Modulation of the CUP Boundary Gene.

Current Biology 27 p2610-2622.e3

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.07.064

View All

Enrico Coen

  • Catherine Mansfield Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Christopher Whitewoods Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Annabel Whibley Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Xana Verweij Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Dr Paul Southam Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Annis Richardson Postgraduate Student
  • Dr Jake Newman Postdoctoral Scientist
  • Karen Lee Research Assistant
  • Richard Kennaway Senior Scientist
  • Samantha Fox Research Assistant
  • Mabon Elis Postgraduate Student
  • Lucy Copsey Research Assistant
  • Dr Des Bradley Research Assistant
  • Alice Dore Lab Attendant


Awarded the chance to exhibit research to the public at the 2016 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Waddington Medal, British Society for Developmental Biology, 2016

Croonian Medal, Royal Society, 2015

European Molecular Biology Organisation Young Investigator committee member, 2015-18

Elected President of the Genetics Society, 2012

Darwin Medal, 2004

Commander of the British Empire, 2003

Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Science, 2001

Fellow of the Royal Society, 1998

Linnean Gold Medal, 1997

European Molecular Biology Organisation Medal, 1996

Science for Art Prize, LVMH Moet Hennessy, France, 1996

Elected Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation, 1991


For media enquiries, contact the John Innes Centre communications team 01603 450962,

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