Apomixis is a fascinating developmental process with a tremendous potential for plant breeding. Sexual reproduction and apomixis are closely interrelated and often occur within the same plant species. At least three key developmental steps are altered in a pomictic plants: (i) meiotic reduction is omitted or altered (apomeiosis), (ii) embryogenesis is initiated autonomously (parthenogenesis), and (iii) functional endosperm is formed through developmental adaptations. The molecular basis of (a) sexual reproduction is largely unknown.
The goal of this project is to identify genes expressed in key steps of apomictic development in Boechera gunnisoniana, a close relative of Arabidopsis. I will establish methods for heterologous transcriptome analysis (Boechera RNA on Arabidopsis GeneCHIPs), determine the transcriptome of the cell giving rise to an embryo sac and of the egg cell in apomictic reproduction of Boechera, and identify genes of putative importance for apomixis by comparing Boechera and Arabidopsis transcr iptomes (the latter obtained in projects ongoing in the Grossniklaus lab). I will further investigate the in planta roles of candidate genes for reproduction.
This project will significantly contribute to our understanding of the molecular basis underlying (a) sexual reproduction. The results are expected to cover one scientific paper on the comparative transcriptome analysis and one on the analysis of candidate genes. The proposed research on the cutting-edge topic of plant reproduction will be performed in an internationally acclaimed laboratory. My training objectives are to enhance my scientific knowledge on the topic, to gain experience in new state-of-art technologies, like laser capture micro-dissection and transcriptomics, and to enhance my research experience. It will be beneficial for my future scientific development and provide a basis for me to develop a career as an independent researcher.
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