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Plant Growth Substances: sensitivity vs signal strength

Head of Group: Dr David Hanke

David HankeWe aim to discover how changes in plant development are controlled. Sometimes a shift in the level of active hormone is responsible, sometimes an alteration in the ability of the tissue to respond, more often a combination of both. We are currently studying the role of inositol hexakisphosphate in development, the regulation of dormancy by changes in the sensitivity of tissues to cytokinins. We have discovered that the insensitivity to cytokinins associated with potato tuber dormancy is caused by the accumulation of a cytokinin- sequestering protein. The level of expression of this protein is directly related to the duration of dormancy.

 

Improving resistance to pre-harvest sprouting in cereal crops

When expressed in other plants, the cytokinin-sequestering protein prolongs seed dormancy. Rice plants express genes  for related proteins in developing seeds. We think they help prevent the seeds from starting to germinate before the grains have dried out. We’re investigating the activity of these rice seed proteins.

padi rice
A field of padi rice; the close-up of inflorescences shows the full size fruits beginning to ripen.

A tuber of the potato variety  ‘Majestic’,  our favourite  experimental subject for dormancy studies because this variety has the longest dormancy. Behind are three aseptic shoot cultures of transgenic lines of the potato variety ‘Desiree’, easier to transform genetically and used to test the effect of the cytokinin-sequestering protein on tuber dormancy.