Control of meristem differentiation and plant architecture in legumes

Plant development is controlled by new regulatory molecules

Sustainable food security is of utmost importance to the future of the planet.  Plants provide the nutrient sources that directly or indirectly sustain the livelihood and health of 6.88 billion people, billions of farm animals and underpin economic prosperity. The root systems of plants play vital roles in the overall fitness and productivity of plants. The architecture of the root system is greatly influenced by nutrient availability and the environmental conditions they live in. Understanding the complex regulatory networks controlling root architecture has the potential to address major issues threatening agricultural and ecological sustainability and human health.

Novel regulatory systems underpin root organogenesis

The architecture of the root system is integral for plant productivity as the spatial deployment of roots will substantially determine the ability of a plant to exploit nutrient resources. Plant roots show remarkable developmental plasticity and in legumes, this plasticity enables the formation of several de novo organs: lateral roots which are critical for the development and the dynamics of root architecture and symbiotically-derived nitrogen-fixing root nodules, which are essential for sustainable agriculture. Root plasticity is also dictated by the availability of soil nutrients and the environmental conditions the plants live in. We are investigating common signalling mechanisms linking the regulation of these developmental programs. In particular, we are elucidating the functions of genes that play critical roles during root development and its response to various environmental cues.