PS Seminar: Brachypodium – how false bromes bring true hopes for a perfect model in grass molecular cytogenetics

Modern molecular cytogenetics amalgamates various methodological approaches of cytology, molecular genetics and advanced digital image analysis and focuses on the study of nuclear genomes at the microscopic level. The cytomolecular organisation of plant genomes is still rather poorly investigated, compared to that of animals. Most plant genomes, including those of economically and ecologically crucial cereals, are usually large and saturated with repetitive DNA, which hampers detailed molecular cytogenetic analyses. Model organisms possess a combination of features, which makes them more amenable to scientific investigation than others. One of the most recent and rapidly developing model systems are representatives of the Brachypodium genus, particularly B. distachyon. They possess small, and in some cases, already sequenced genomes with a low repeat content, diverse basic chromosome numbers and ploidy levels. They also have an interesting phylogeny, short life cycles and simple growth requirements, complemented by a rapidly and continuously growing repertoire of various experimental tools. This presentation outlines and discusses our current projects and their future prospects, using Brachypodium species for research on various aspects of grass genome organisation, e.g. (i) chromosome and karyotype structure and evolution; (ii) meiosis in a small-genome grass: pairing control and chromatin dynamics; (iii) dynamics of epigenetic modifications of chromatin during embryo development and cell differentiation; (iv) true nature of selective silencing of rRNA genes in some Brachypodium allopolyploids; (v) instability of a small grass genome induced via mutagenic treatments; (vi) distribution of chromosome domains and territories at interphase.

Robert Hasterok ( is the Professor of Biology and the head of the Department of Plant Anatomy and Cytology at the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. From the very beginning (2000), he was the proponent of establishing Brachypodium distachyon as the model system, useful in various areas of biology. He was also one of the founders of the International Brachypodium Initiative (2006) and participated in the B. distachyon whole genome sequencing project (completed in 2010), contributing to the integration of the physical map with the chromosomes of this species. Using various DNA sequences as molecular probes in FISH, he and his group have undertaken a complex study on the cytomolecular organisation of Brachypodium genomes. At present, Robert Hasterok is the PI of several large projects on Brachypodium genome structure, evolution and dynamics at the chromosomal level that are funded by the National Science Centre Poland and has joint projects with many colleagues from the UK, USA, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Turkey. More on his research and teaching activity as well as the bibliography can be found here: