Unravelling the algorithms of plant form

MORRIS_J23DTP

Grasses exhibit a stunning diversity in their shape and form. How do these different forms arise? What genetics underlie the observed shapes? What can computer science and modelling reveal about potential mechanisms?

Many important staple crops are grasses (eg wheat, maize, rice, barley) and their different forms have a direct impact on yield, making this fundamental study into plant form simultaneously an investigation into routes for enhancing grain production and food security.

To unravel the structural diversity of wheat and other grasses, you will work with expert computational modellers and alongside leading wheat geneticists to build and validate computational models of wheat.

The models will build on and extend existing frameworks that capture key genetic components.

If you have a passion for computers and coding coupled, a keen interest in solving complex problems, and enthusiam for plant biology, crop science, or food security, then this PhD project may be for you.

References

Anna E Backhaus, Ashleigh Lister, Melissa Tomkins, Nikolai M Adamski, James Simmonds, Iain Macaulay, Richard J Morris, Wilfried Haerty, Cristobal Uauy, High expression of the MADS-box gene VRT2 increases the number of rudimentary basal spikelets in wheat, Plant Physiology, Volume 189, Issue 3, July 2022, Pages 1536–1552, https://doi.org/10.1093/plphys/kiac156.

Li K, Debernardi JM, Li C, Lin H, Zhang C, Jernstedt J, Korff MV, Zhong J, Dubcovsky J. Interactions between SQUAMOSA and SHORT VEGETATIVE PHASE MADS-box proteins regulate meristem transitions during wheat spike development. Plant Cell. 2021 Dec 3;33(12):3621-3644. doi: 10.1093/plcell/koab243. PMID: 34726755; PMCID: PMC8643710.

Adamski NM, Simmonds J, Brinton JF, Backhaus AE, Chen Y, Smedley M, Hayta S, Florio T, Crane P, Scott P, Pieri A, Hall O, Barclay JE, Clayton M, Doonan JH, Nibau C, Uauy C. Ectopic expression of Triticum polonicum VRT-A2 underlies elongated glumes and grains in hexaploid wheat in a dosage-dependent manner. Plant Cell. 2021 Aug 13;33(7):2296-2319. doi: 10.1093/plcell/koab119. PMID: 34009390; PMCID: PMC8364232.