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Development and Reproduction

Head of Group: Dr Sebastien Andreuzza

sebastien andreuzzaWe are interested in plant sexual reproduction, an essential process that culminates in formation of the seed, the major source of food for mankind. In sexually reproducing plants, germ cells enter meiosis to produce spores, which differentiate into gametes. Contrary to animals that specify and set apart germ cells early during embryogenesis, plants germ cells differentiate from somatic cells late during their adult life.

We are interested in cell fate specification and differentiation, and particularly in the mechanisms by which plant germ cells are formed and acquire a sexual identity to produce male and female spores.

We are also interested in the developmental controls that regulate meiosis, the specialized cell division during which parental chromosomes recombine to produce genetically distinct cells, and the function of chromatin in this process.

We combine classical genetics, cytology, and molecular biology approaches with novel cell type-specific approaches, to elucidate the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to plant reproductive development.

Current projects:

Mechanisms of germ cell formation

Male and female germ cells differentiate in anthers and ovules respectively. We are using genetics and cytology to reconstitute the genetic networks and pathways that control and regulate germ cell formation in these organs.

Determinants of germ cell fate

We are developing a cell-type specific approach to characterize germ cells prior to entry in meiosis, with the aim to identify and understand the factors that specify germ cell identity.

Direct profiling of chromatin organization during meiosis

We are taking a cell-type specific approach to isolate large amounts of nuclei from meiotic cells and characterize chromatin states during meiosis. The aim is to understand how meiosis impacts chromatin organization and gene expression, and in collaboration with the Henderson lab, to determine the chromatin context in which recombination takes place.

 

Fig1 sm

Expression pattern of a germ cell marker fused to YFP in Arabidopsis. Left: female germ cells differentiate at the tip of ovules in the pistil; right: male germ cells differentiate within anthers. How is expression of germ cell specific genes controlled, and what is their function?
(yellow = YFP, blue = nuclei)

Fig2 sm

We have tagged the nuclear envelope of Arabidopsis meiotic cells with GFP. We are using GFP as an affinity tag to isolate nuclei undergoing meiosis and study meiotic chromatin organization.
(green = GFP, magenta = chromosomes)