Metabolism and Development

Dr. Vanessa Wahl’s group focuses on how metabolic and nutritional status affects developmental transitions in plants. In particular, we are interested in processes at the shoot apical meristem (SAM) that regulate meristem size and the timing of the floral transition. We use Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system in order to understand basic mechanisms. We are also applying this research to study the regulation of developmental transitions in the crop species Solanum tuberosum (potato).

An RNA in situ hybridization demonstrating that AtTPS1 is expressed in a vegetative shoot apical meristem in a domain surrounding the stem cell niche (Research highlights, Nature Chemical Biology, 2013).

The floral transition is a key developmental process, and is tightly connected to available resources. We have previously published on how a plant’s sucrose status is integrated into the regulation of flowering time via the trehalose-6-phosphate (T6P) pathway in Arabidopsis thaliana (Wahl et al., Science, 2013) and are now further characterizing this pathway’s function in several follow-up projects.

A minimal model of the dual role of the T6P pathway in the regulation of flowering time. Signaling from the T6P pathway is absolutely essential for expression of FT and TSF in the phloem companion cells even under otherwise non-inductive photoperiod. In addition, T6P signaling regulates the expression of SPL genes at the shoot apical meristem both directly and via miR156. Together, these events ensure that plants make the transition to flowering only after day length exceeds a certain threshold and carbohydrates are available to support the energy-demanding processes of flowering and seed production. Solid lines, direct interactions dashed line, indirect interactions transport of FT protein (florigen) and sucrose from leaves to the shoot apical meristem is indicated (modified from Wahl et al., Science, 2013).

We were also able to identify how a plant’s nitrogen (N) nutrition regulates flowering via nitrate inducible components of the flowering network in the shoot apical meristem. We are working to understand the underlying mechanisms both in Arabidopsis thaliana and Solanum tuberosum.

In addition to these major topics we are running a few collaborative projects, requiring our scientific and technical skills (e.g. RNA in situ hybridization). 

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