Dr. Anja Schmidt
Apomictic and sexual plant reproduction
Reproduction is a crucial step in the life cycle of higher plants. Apart from being of great importance for reproduction, plant seeds are essential sources of energy for human and animal diet. In order to form seeds, higher plants evolved different reproductive strategies, including sexual and asexual reproduction (apomixis). Apomixis has an outstanding potential for agricultural use, as it leads to the formation of clonal offspring, allowing the fixation of complex high yielding genotypes. However, it is largely absent from major crop species. Despite the great interest in apomixis, knowledgle about the evolution and genetic basis of apomixis is limitted to date. A good understanding of the genetic basis governing apomixis is not only of scientific interest, but a precondition to achieve the longstanding aim to engineer apomixis into crop species.
Recently, the importance of RNA helicases for the formation of the reproductive lineage in the sexual model plant Arabidopsis thaliana was identified (Schmidt et al., PLoS Biol. 2011). A novel RNA helicase, MNEME/MEM (named after the greek muse of memory) was identified to play roles for the restriction of reproductive fate in the ovules, the female reproductive tissues of the flower. Interestingly, plants carrying mutant mem alleles showed features of apomixis (Schmidt et al., PLoS Biol. 2011).
Current research focusses on the regulatory mechanisms governing plant sexual and apomictic reprodution with respect to the role and evolution of selected RNA helicases.
Projects for Master- or Bachlor Theses, and laboratory rotations are available. Applications are welcome.
Schmidt A, Schmid MW, Grossniklaus U (2015) Plant germline formation: common concepts and developmental flexibility in sexual and asexual reproduction. Development 142(2):229-41. doi: 10.1242/dev.102103.
Schmidt A, Schmid MW, Klostermeier UC, Qi W, Guthörl D, Sailer C, Waller M, Rosenstiel P, Grossniklaus U (2014) Apomictic and sexual germline development differ with respect to cell cycle, transcriptional, hormonal and epigenetic regulation. PLoS Genet. 10(7):e1004476. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004476.
Schmid MW, Schmidt A, Klostermeier UC, Barann M, Rosenstiel P, Grossniklaus U (2012) A powerful method for transcriptional profiling of specific cell types in eukaryotes: laser-assisted microdissection and RNA sequencing. PLoS One. 7(1):e29685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029685.
Schmidt A, Wuest SE, Vijverberg K, Baroux C, Kleen D, Grossniklaus U. (2011) Transcriptome analysis of the Arabidopsis megaspore mother cell uncovers the importance of RNA helicases for plant germline development. PLoS Biol. 9(9):e1001155. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001155.