Prof Kirsten Bomblies

Project Leader
Cell and Developmental Biology

Kirsten works on understanding the evolution of meiosis, particularly recombination and chromosome segregation.

Kirsten is particularly interested in how plants stabilise these processes during adaptation to environmental stresses (especially temperature) and genome duplication events (polyploidy).

The use of genome sequencing has allowed Kirsten to identify the genes involved in these stabilisation processes and follow-up genetic, structural, and biochemical work is in progress.

  • Genome stabilisation during stress and genome duplication events
  • Super resolution microscopy for detailed chromosome imaging and protein labelling
  • Thermostability during meiosis and genetic resilience


Kirsten is interested in understanding how the genes that control meiosis evolve in response to genome duplication and environmental stresses.

Meiosis is a specialised type of cell division, which results in gametes or sex cells.

These cells have half the number of chromosomes normally found in the organism and are essential for fertility in most sexually reproducing species.

She uses Arabidopsis arenosa as her model to study the evolution of meiosis, which is a close relative to the commonly used model organism, Arabidopsis thaliana.

A. arenosa is widely distributed in Europe, across a range of temperatures and habitats, so is well suited to understanding how temperature and habitat affect meiosis.

Her lab has identified strains that differ in their temperature tolerance of meiosis. In addition, many natural populations of A. arenosa are also tetraploid, meaning they have 4 copies of each chromosome, while others are diploid (with only 2 copies of each chromosome, like humans).

The tetraploid lineage has solved the initial problems faced after genome duplication and is fully fertile, and so provides a good model to study the evolution of meiotic stability in the face of genome change.

Through her work on the evolution of meiosis, Prof Bomblies hopes to discover which genes are important in the adaption of meiosis to genome duplication (after which there is twice the content of DNA to deal with) or a change in temperature.

She also hopes to find out how the genes in question were functionally changed in the process, and how the fact that they interact with one other to build complex three-dimensional structures affects their evolution.

Prof Bomblies started her research career as a research assistant, before embarking on a PhD studying the history of maize domestication at the University of Wisconsin. After this, she worked as a postdoc at the Max Plank Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen studying the evolution of autoimmunity in plants.

Since 2009 she has managed her lab at Harvard University where she initiated her work on the evolution of meiosis in response to habitat change and genome duplication, which she will continue at the John Innes Centre.

Serpentine plants survive harsh soils thanks to borrowed genes

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Dr Kirsten Bomblies receives highly coveted Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council

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Recent Publications

Baduel P., Hunter B., Yeola S., Bomblies K. (2018)

Genetic basis and evolution of rapid cycling in railway populations of tetraploid Arabidopsis arenosa

PLoS Genetics 14 pe1007510

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007510

Lloyd A., Morgan C., Franklin F. C. H., Bomblies K. (2018)

High and low temperatures increase class I meiotic crossovers in Arabidopsis

Genetics 208 p1409-1420

Publisher’s version: 10.1534/genetics.117.300588

Morgan C. M., Zhang H., Bomblies K. (2017)

Are the effects of elevated temperature on meiotic recombination and thermotolerance linked via the axis and synaptonemal complex?

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 372

Publisher’s version: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0470

Yant L., Bomblies K. (2017)

Genomic studies of adaptive evolution in outcrossing Arabidopsis species.

Current Opinion in Plant Biology 36 p9-14

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.pbi.2016.11.018

Lloyd A., Bomblies K. (2016)

Meiosis in autopolyploid and allopolyploid Arabidopsis

Current Opinion in Plant Biology 30 p116-122

Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.pbi.2016.02.004

View All


Kirsten received a B.A. in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA in 1996. She received her PhD in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI in 2004, where she worked in John Doebley’s group on the genetics of maize domestication. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in Detlef Weigel’s group at the Max Planck Institue for Developmental Biology in Tuebingen, Germany from 2004 to 2009 studying hybrid necrosis in A. thaliana. Kirsten was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 2008, and was on the faculty in the OEB department at Harvard University from July 2009 to September 2015, when she moved to the John Innes Centre


Bomblies, K., Jones, G.H., Franklin, F.C.H., Zickler, D., Kleckner, N. The challenge of evolving stable polyploidy: could interference play a central role? Invited review, Chromosoma [AOP].

Yant, L., Bomblies, K. (2015) Genome management and mismanagement – cell-level problems and opportunities of whole genome duplication. Invited review. Genes & Development 29: 2405-2419.

Bomblies, K. (2015) The high life: Alpine dwarfism in Arabidopsis thaliana. Invited Commentary. Plant Physiology 168: 767

Bomblies, K., Higgins, J.D., Yant, L. (2015) Meiosis Evolves: Adaptation to external and internal environments. Invited Tansley Review. New Phytologist 208: 306-323.

Arnold, B., Kim, S-T., Bomblies, K. (2015) Single geographic origin of a widespread autotetraploid Arabidopsis arenosa lineage followed by interploidy admixture. Mol Biol Evol. 32: 1382-1395 (Link).

Wright, K. M., Arnold, B., Xue, K., Šurinová, M., O'Connell, J., Bomblies, K. (2015) Selection on meiosis genes in diploid and tetraploid Arabidopsis arenosaMol Biol Evol 32: 944-955 (Link).

Bomblies, K. (2014) Meiotic Drivers: Cheaters divide and conquer. Invited Perspective Article. eLife2014;3:e03371. 

Bomblies, K., Madlung, A. (2014) Polyploidy in the Arabidopsis genus. Invited review. Chromosome Research. 22: 117-134.

Bomblies, K., Loudet, O. (2014) Editorial Overview: Genome studies and molecular genetics: Genomic approaches to understanding evolution, development and the plant phenome. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 18: v-vi [Preface to volume co-edited with Olivier Loudet].

Higgins, J. D., Wright, K. M., Bomblies, K., Franklin, C. H. F. (2013) Cytological techniques to analyze meiosis in Arabidopsis arenosa for investigating adaptation to polyploidy. Frontiers in Plant Science.  4: 546. (Link).

Yant, L.*, Hollister, J. D.*, Wright, K. M., Arnold, B. J., Higgins, J. D., Franklin, F. C. H.,Bomblies, K. (2013) Meiotic adaptation to genome duplication in Arabidopsis arenosaCurrent Biology. Vol 23, pp. 2151-2156* = contributed equally (Link). [Featured in a Dispatch article in Current Biology and a Science editor's choice].

Wright, K. M., Bomblies, K. (2013) Evolutionary genetics: Inheritance of a complex pollination syndrome. Current Biology. Dispatch article. Vol 23, pp. R525-R527 (Link).

Arnold, B.*, Corbett-Detig, R. B.*, Hartl, D., Bomblies, K. (2013) RADseq underestimates diversity and introduces genealogical biases due to nonrandom haplotype samplingMolecular Ecology. Vol 22, pp. 3179-3190. * = contributed equally. (Link).

Hunter, B.*, Wright, K. M.*, Bomblies, K. (2013) Short read sequencing in studies of natural variation and adaptationCurr Op Plant Biol. Vol 16, pp. 85-91. * = contributed equally. (Link).

Bomblies, K. (2013) Genes causing postzygotic hybrid incompatibility in plants: A window into co-evolution, in Polyploid and Hybrid Genomics (eds Z. J. Chen and J. A. Birchler), John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Oxford, UK.

Hollister, J., Arnold, B., Svedin, E., Xue, K., Dilkes, B., Bomblies, K. (2012) Genetic adaptation associated with genome-doubling in autotetraploid Arabidopsis arenosaPLoS Genetics, 8(12): e1003093 (Open Access - Link).

Arnold, B., Bomblies, K., Wakeley, J. (2012) Extending coalescent theory to autotetraploids. Genetics. Vol 192, pp. 195-204. (Open Access- Link)

Hunter, B., Hollister, J. D., Bomblies, K. (2012) Epigenetic inheritance: What news for evolution? Current Biology. Dispatch article. Vol 22, pp. R54-R56. (Link)

Hunter, B., Bomblies, K. (2010) Progress and promise in using Arabidopsis to study adaptation, divergence and speciation. Invited review. In: The Arabidopsis Book. American Society of Plant Biologists. Ames, IA. (Link)

Bomblies, K. (2010). Doomed lovers: mechanisms of isolation and incompatibility in plant speciation. Invited review. Annual review of Plant Biology 61, pp. 109-124. (Link)

Bomblies, K. (2010) Evolution: Redundancy as an opportunity for innovation. Dispatch article. Current Biology. 20, pp. R320-R322. (Link)

Bomblies, K. (2009). Too much of a good thing? Hybrid necrosis as a by-product of plant immune system diversification. Invited review. Botany 87, pp. 1013-1022. (Link)

General audience publications
Bomblies, K. Do we understand the dynamics of our emerging global culture? Essay contribution to  “What should we be worried about?” ed. John Brockman. 2013, Harper-Collins, New York, NY.

Bomblies, K. Plant immunity in a changing world. Essay contribution to “Future Science – 19 essays from the Cutting Edge” edited by Max Brockmann (2011).

Bomblies, K. The stunning diversity of plants. 10 Questions Interview. Seed magazine. February 22, 2010. (Link)

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