Epigenetic Mechanisms of Plant Reproduction

Epigenetic Mechanisms of Plant Reproduction

The main goal of the research in the group "Epigenetic Mechanisms of Plant Reproduction" led by Prof. Dr. Claudia Köhler is to understand the molecular events regulating seed development and plant speciation.

The main interest of the group focuses on seeds and in particular on the endosperm, which supports embryo growth, similar to the placenta in mammals. The endosperm is a major source of human calories; one of many other reasons to study endosperm development. Embryo and endosperm development are closely connected and both tissues exchange signals; nevertheless, the nature of the signals and their role for seed development remain largely unknown. The peculiar genome composition of the endosperm with two maternal and one paternal genome renders the endosperm prone to epigenetic regulation; which we aim to explore. The endosperm is furthermore a major barrier in response to interspecies hybridization; we seek to understand the genetic basis of endosperm-based hybridization barriers and their impact on angiosperm evolution.

Using a combination of genetics, genomics, epigenomics, and evolutionary biology, we are currently exploring the following projects:

  1. Genetic basis and evolutionary relevance of endosperm-based hybridization barriers
  2. Mechanism and relevance of genomic imprinting
  3. Role of MADS-box transcription factors for endosperm development and evolution
  4. Functional role of transposable element and small RNAs for plant reproduction
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