Gatsby Trust PhD studentship in plant development
Title: Polycomb-group genes controlling Arabidopsis flower development
A studentship funded by the Gatsby Trust is available within my group.
The Gatsby awards are valuable ones, and provide the student with a
generous maintenance allowance, but also with money for consumables,
money for travel to conferences, and with good support - for example,
run various training weekends for award holders on making presentations,
thesis writing, and other skills. Candidates submit a brief research
proposal and are interviewed by a panel from the Gatsby trust on March
In my group, we are characterising the action of plant Polycomb-group
genes in regulating reproductive development. In animals,
Polycomb-group genes regulate chromatin structure and are thought to
control cell fate determination by locking on or off states of homeotic
gene activity. We identified a Polycomb gene, CURLY LEAF (CLF), from
Arabidopsis and showed that it controls floral homeotic genes during
leaf and flower development. Subsequently, another group of plant
Polycomb genes, termed the FIS group, have been shown by several groups
to regulate seed development and these are thought to play a role in
genomic imprinting. We are using various genetic and molecular
approaches to dissect CLF and FIS group function. For example, we are
making genetic screens to identify genes that modify the clf phenotype.
These are expected to identify additional plant factors regulating
chromatin structure and homeotic gene expression. One project is
therefore to clone and characterise modifiers arising from the screen.
We have also identified the floral homoeotic gene AGAMOUS as a target of
CLF, and find that promoter and intragenic (intron) sequences are
required for response to CLF. We would therefore like to dissect
further the AG regulatory sequences and identify the regions that confer
response to CLF. The projects would provide a good general training in
genetic and molecular techniques for analysing plant development, and an
opportunity to interact with several other groups conducting key
research in plant development.