Prof Brendan Davies
Plant Development Laboratory
Unlike animals, plants develop continuously in response to their environment. This developmental plasticity comes about, at least partly, because plant organs are constantly produced from a pool of undifferentiated stem cells which is found at the tip of the shoot. Plants need to accomplish at least three things to convert undifferentiated cells in this pool into lateral organs such as leaves and petals. Firstly the pool of stem cells needs to be able to maintain itself, so that the rate of generation of new stem cells is equal to the rate of differentiation of the old cells. Secondly the position of the newly formed organ needs to be defined and its boundaries established. Finally the newly developing organ needs to adopt a specific tissue and cell identity - the cells need to know whether they are to become hairs or stomata, petals or ovules.
Using the model plants Antirrhinum and Arabidopsis we are investigating the mechanisms controlling these developmental changes. We use a combination of genetics, using mutants in which these processes are disrupted, and molecular biology, to identify genes which act within these processes.
The following projects are being followed in the laboratory:
- Analysis of genes controlling stem cell maintenance, lateral organ boundaries and organ identity.
- Functional analysis of the MADS-box family of transcription factors in Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum.
- Signalling to the cytoskeleton and its organisation (a collaboration with Prof. Patrick Hussey, Durham).
- Comparative genome oganisation in Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum.
- Nonsense mediated mRNA decay in plants.