Prof Robert Sablowski
Head of Department
Cell and Developmental Biology
Plants recurrently produce new organs and tissues at the apical meristems. The arrangement and growth of these primordia establish plant architecture, which in crops is key to productivity. My lab focuses on the genetics and cell biology of the meristem and organ primordia in the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana and in related crop species (Brassica spp).
One of the questions we investigate is how the plant stem is formed at the shoot apex. Stem development is particularly important for crop performance: the height and sturdiness of the stem affect the likelihood that plants fall over in bad weather, how much of the plant’s resources can be directed to making fruits and seeds, and how easy it is to harvest them. We are using a combination of quantitative imaging, genetics and genome-wide association mapping to understand how stem development is regulated and to reveal novel genes that can be used to modify stem architecture.
At a more fundamental level, we want to understand how genes cause organs to grow to a specific shape and size. To answer this question, we use quantitative, 3D analysis of cell geometry and cell cycle progression to study the function of growth regulatory genes such as JAGGED (JAG). We have found, for example, that JAG sculpts floral organs by directly repressing genes that control entry into DNA replication.
One of the current priorities in developmental biology is to develop computer models that can simulate and predict the way organs and organisms grow. Addressing the questions above will be essential for connecting these models with molecular mechanisms that can be controlled experimentally. Ultimately, this knowledge will allow rational modification of plant organ growth and crop performance.
Peeling back the layers: scientists use new techniques to uncover hidden secrets of plant stem developmentread more
Pixelated plants shed light on cell size controlread more
UK-Brazil plant science workshop sparks ideas for joint researchread more
Control of oriented tissue growth through repression of organ boundary genes promotes stem morphogenesis
Developmental Cell 39 p198-208
Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.08.013
Current Opinion in Plant Biology 34 p54-60
Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.pbi.2016.09.004
PLoS Genetics 12 pe1006168
Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006168
Current Biology 25 p2991-6
Publisher’s version: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.008
- Katharina Schiessl Research Assistant
- Dr Vishmita Sethi Research Assistant
- Dr Antonio Serrano Mislata Postdoctoral Scientist
- Dr Stefano Bencivenga Postdoctoral Training Fellow
- Dr Max Bush Research Assistant