University scientists involved in major international plant reproduction study

Leicester is part of a major new study on the evolution of sexual reproduction in plants which has received 2.6 million euros in funding.

David Twell, Professor of Plant Biology, is leading the University of Leicester  team of researchers in a major study on plant sperm cells as part of a consortium of institutions across Europe and the United States.

The project gives the researchers the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the evolution of sexual reproduction of economically important plant species, using the latest genetic technologies.

Professor Twell said: “My team in the Department of Genetics will explore how fertile sperm are made by flowering plants and compare this process with that which occurs in relative of the earliest land plants, known as bryophytes – the mosses and liverworts.”

“By comparing gene networks in important crop plants such as maize and tomato with those in the earliest relatives of the flowering plants we hope to find new genes and achieve a greater understanding of genes which may be affected by environmental stress such as heat and drought.”

The University of Leicester’s Botanic Garden will provide essential growth facilities for the project.

The project is funded under the scope of ERA-CAPS, a European network dedicated to the support of research activities in Plant Sciences. The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will be providing funding to support research at Leicester in the ERA-CAPS programme.

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