Dr Ian Henderson, Royal Society University Research Fellow, Gatsby University Research Fellow
Epigenetics & Heredity
Sexual eukaryotes, including most plants, reproduce via fusion of gametes that contain half the number of chromosomes. Gametes form via a specialised cell division termed meiosis. During meiosis parental chromosomes also undergo reciprocal genetic exchange (crossover) to generate new combinations of genetic variation. Understanding crossover is important as it has a profound effect on patterns of natural genetic variation and is a vital tool in agriculture and crop breeding.
Patterns of meiotic recombination are highly non-random within plant genomes, and we aim to define the mechanisms that control these patterns. Epigenetic information is a major determinant of DNA transcription in plants, and we are testing the hypothesis that chromatin also influences meiotic recombination. Consistent with this hypothesis we have shown epigenetic remodeling of crossover frequency in DNA methylation mutants. We have also observed narrow recombination hotspots that associate with specific chromatin patterns. We are currently investigating the extent to which epigenetic information and genetic polymorphism shape crossover patterns in plant genomes.
Using genetics and genomics we hope to understand mechanisms acting during plant heredity, how they influence species evolution and how they can be applied during crop improvement.