The flower, and the interactions with pollinators that it enhances, are amongst the key innovations that have allowed angiosperms to be so successful. Current research in my laboratory takes an evolution of development approach to investigate the genetic basis of two adaptive features of the flower: breeding system and petaloidy. Our focus is on modulators of floral development (MADS-box and MYB transcription factors) as candidate genes for angiosperm diversification. We capitalize on the diversity of breeding and pollination systems in the genus Thalictrum, a basal Eudicot with a strategic phylogenetic position between model systems. Through comparative expression and functional analyses of reproductive organ identity genes and downstream genes responsible for features of the perianth involved in pollinator attraction, we hope to contribute to an overall understanding of the genetic basis of plant speciation and adaptation.
Two main lines of research in the lab involve comparative gene expression analysis and gene function through viral induced gene silencing in Thalictrum (Ranunculaceae).
1) Characterization of B and C class floral MADS box genes (homologs of AP3, PI and AG) in relation to breeding system transitions.
2) Role of MYB transcription factors (homologs of MIXTA-like) in epidermal conical cells and trichomes in relation to pollination syndromes.