Crop yield depends in a large part on stem height and inflorescence structure.
Mutations that reduce stem growth have been used widely to improve crop yields but also have undesired side effects. Like all shoot organs, the stem is initiated within a region of the shoot apical meristem (SAM) called the rib meristem (RM) that provides cells for internodes.
As organs enlarge, specialised domains of restricted growth known as the boundaries within SAM, define the base of shoots and many aspects of plant architecture. The coordinated growth of these different meristem regions relies on a tight interplay of local transcriptional networks and inter-regional hormone signalling.
Rafael’s research focuses on understanding how some boundary genes and hormone signalling control stem growth with the objective of developing more precise genetic tools to increase plant productivity by modifying plant height and shape.