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Regulation of plant growth by MADS box organ identity genes (MADS and growth)
Start date: Jun 1, 2009, End date: May 31, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The development of organs in the plant body occurs post-embryonically and can be characterised by three distinct steps. Firstly, the position of future organ primordia must be specified. Subsequently the identity of organs is determined, followed by differentiation and growth of specialised cell types. Although substantial amount of data generated in the past resulted in identification of players involved in each step, the crucial question how organ identity determination is linked to organ growth and differentiation remains to be addressed. Several preliminary observations imply that genes essential for the specification of floral organ identity, namely MADS box transcription factors, might also play important roles in later steps of organ development and growth. Pilot experiments revealed that MADS box transcription factors are expressed during later steps of organ development and are able to interact with proteins involved in the regulation of organ growth, like TCP transcription factors. The main objective of my research will be to characterise the exact function of MADS box organ identity genes in the molecular and cellular processes underlying growth and establishment of final organ size. I intend to focus predominantly on the development of the floral organs sepals and petals in the model species Arabidopsis given their simple structure yet distinct size and identity. I will confirm and identify “late” interaction partners and targets of the MADS box proteins. Furthermore, the role of the identified genes and proteins in the growth process of floral organs will be analysed by achieving time and site specific activation/inactivation. The proposed research will not only substantially contribute to the knowledge about regulation of plant growth, but will also open new horizons in the field of plant development. Detailed characterisation of molecular mechanisms governing flower and hence fruit growth could provide tools for future agricultural applications.

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