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Unraveling sex determination and parthenocarpy mechanisms to improve crops (SEXYPARTH)
Start date: Apr 1, 2014, End date: Mar 31, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"In the last century, the use of high-yielding F1-hybrid varieties, mechanization and irrigation have insured yield improvement for major crops. In the post-genomic era, one would expect that the discovery and the optimization of the gene networks controlling key agronomic traits could contribute to another level of yield improvement. In this scenario, leader alleles will be identified and combined to produce new plant prototypes.Our proposal aims to investigate unisexual flowers development and parthenocarpy in Cucurbitaceae species and to produce new plant prototypes adapted to specific growing conditions. The rationale behind choosing plants from this family as a model system is justified by the widespread of sex morphs and the major role of many species of this family in food security.Our recent work on sex determination which led to the isolation of the first naturally occurring sex determination genes in plants, has set the ground for this project. The proposal relies on integrative analyses of datasets that will be obtained from the combination of different “omics” and genetic tools. Specific objectives include the (i) Determination of the gene networks controlling unisexual flower development and fruit shape, (ii) Comparative analysis of the sex genes in Cucurbitaceae species of different sexual morphs (iii) Determination of the gene networks controlling parthenocarpy and (iv) Production of new plant prototypes of major and orphan cucurbits and detailed phenotyping for yield. Outcomes will be transferred to the major Cucurbitaceae, melon, watermelon, cucumber and zucchini, as well as the orphan crop, bottle gourd. Cucurbitaceae in this project are considered not only as plant to improve but also as a model system to bring new insights to two breeding traits, unisexual flower development and fruit setting."

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