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(BOF GOA Ghent University, 2022-2026)

Plant development is highly adaptive, compensating for their incapacity to escape unfavorable environmental conditions. We exploit this flexibility when applying temperature stress to microspores, stimulating embryogenesis in vitro. Despite the importance of this technology for creating more sustainable hybrid crop varieties, we know very little about the processes that determine the stress induced embryogenic response of microspores.

Prof. Danny Geelen, Prof. Steffen Vanneste, prof. Inge De Clercq, prof. Frank Van Breusegem, prof. Daniël Van Damme, prof. Moritz Nowack.

PhD project Cedric Schindfessel

Natural variation in temperature sensitivity of male meiosis and pollen development

Sexual reproduction creates genetic variation in offspring that through natural selection results in species adapted to changing environments. Meiosis, the process that underlies genetic variation, is itself influenced by several environmental factors and appears to be highly sensitive to temperature stress. High and low temperatures or sudden temperature changes during meiosis can disrupt the normal process, often resulting in decreased fertility. In plants, heat stress causes changes in gene expression and chromosome structure, defects in cytoskeletal organization and cytokinesis. Given the importance of good fertility for grain production and the survival of natural populations, it is vital for future food production and biodiversity that we understand how climate change affects meiosis in plants. This project studies the natural variation in temperature stress sensitivity, in order to identify the genetic factors and alleles responsible for defects in male meiosis and reduced fertility in both Arabidopsis and rice due to temperature stress.

Tetrad stage meiocytes from Arabidopsis thaliana Ler and Mt-0 incubated for 24h or 32°C. Microspores stained with orcein (panels on the left) and aniline blue staining (panels on the right).

PhD project Limin Sun

Genetic factors required for pollen development

The PhD project of Limin is to investigate novel genes involved in the viability and fertility of pollen in Arabidopsis thaliana. Genes unique to plants are required for pollen development and when mutated, a gametophytic lethality occurs. Such genes are of interest to unravel molecular processes that underly cell division and cell differentiation.