Flowering plants evolved during the Cretaceous Period >100 million years ago and quickly colonised terrestrial habitats. A major reason for their success was the formation and diversification of fruits that protect and nurture the developing seeds. The Brassicaceae family of flowering plants contains a wealth of diversity in fruit morphology and includes some of our genetically best characterised model plants and important crop species. Thus, the Brassicaceae family provides an ideal group of plants to study how specific shapes are established and their effect on reproduction.
Previous results have shown that photosynthesis in the fruit walls has a huge effect on seed growth with estimates suggesting that >50% of assimilates for seed filling originates from photosynthesis in the fruit walls. It is therefore possible that increasing the surface area of fruits in seed crops would lead to increased yield.
Oilseed rape belongs to the Brassicaceae family along with the model plants, Arabidopsis and Capsella. While Arabidopsis and oilseed rape produce cylindrical fruits, Capsella fruits are flat with a characteristic heart shape providing a relatively large surface for photosynthesis. We have identified several genes required for obtaining the Capsella fruit shape. Using this knowledge and available unique oilseed rape material, this project is aimed 1) at understanding how fruit shape and seed development is connected and 2) at testing if manipulation of oilseed rape fruit shape can improve seed yield.
The successful candidate will join a lab driven by a fundamental curiosity to understand plant development. At the same time, we are keen to identify routes to translate our discoveries for crop improvement. This project is aligned with a large collaborative programme called BRAVO aimed at understanding the genetic networks underlying reproductive development in oilseed rape and vegetable Brassicas providing opportunities for interactions with both scientific and industry partners.