Evolution and Development of the Flower

This research group works on two main research themes:
- Comparative floral genetics of Petunia hybrida and Arabidopsis thaliana
- The evolution of the carpel in the flowering plants

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Comparative floral genetics of Petunia hybrida and Arabidopsis thaliana

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Mutants help us understand the molecular mechanisms of flower development.

Leader : Michiel VANDENBUSSCHE

We are comparing the mechanisms that control flower development in the model plants Petunia and Arabidopsis, which belong to two very large flowering plant groups, respectively termed the asterids and rosids. A whole genome duplication that occurred shortly before the separation of the asterid and rosid lineages provided extra copies of genes, some of which were then free to evolve novel functions.

Accordingly, we find that numerous differences in flower development mechanisms have evolved between Petunia and Arabidopsis. These differences typify the tremendous diversity of floral form to be found throughout the asterid and rosid clades today, which together contain the majority of living land plant species.

The evolution of the carpel in the flowering plants

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Left- naked ovules of the gymnosperm Cycas rumpii, and right- a pistil (coloured green), composed of two carpels that enclose the ovules, in the model flowering plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Leader : Charlie SCUTT

We are investigating the genetic changes that caused the closure of a leaf-like organ around the ovule to form the carpel- the female reproductive organ of the flowering plants. To do this, we are comparing flowering plants with their non-flowering relatives, the gymnosperms (cycads, conifers, Ginkgo etc), which possess naked ovules. We work both on established model plants such as Arabidopsis for the wealth of molecular and genetic tools available, and on early-diverging flowering plants such as Amborella trichopoda, the sister of all other flowering plants, which is native to the Pacific island of New Caledonia. Understanding the origin of the carpel is central to understanding the origin of the flowering plants, whose sudden rise from an unknown ancestor in the early Cretaceous was famously described by Charles Darwin as an “abominable mystery”.


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