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The evolution of branching patterns in plants

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Plants colonized land over 450 million years ago, and independently underwent architectural diversification in the gametophyte and sporophyte stages of the life cycle. Branching is a key contributor to plant architecture which determines how plants fill space and respond to their environment. The earliest land plant sporophytes did not branch, and the molecular mechanisms regulating gametophytic branching are largely unknown. Although land plants have a shared genetic toolkit, candidate hormonal regulators of branching have divergent reported functions in a moss. I will present a simple model which can reproduce gametophytic shoot branching patterns in Physcomitrella by integrating a cue from the gametophore tips with global and local sensitivities to the cue elsewhere in the plant if the transport capacity for that cue is unbiased, and perturbing auxin, cytokinin and strigolactone biosynthesis phenocopies predictions of the model. Although perturbing the function of Physcomitrella homologues of PIN -FORMED1 auxin transporters has little effect on gametophytic branching, pinb mutants have branched sporophytes. Our results show that three key conserved hormone pathways were recruited independently to regulate gametophytic branching in a moss, but that these cues may be integrated in a novel manner. Perturbing PIN -mediated auxin transport in moss sporophytes can induce a novel phenotype previously only recorded in rare natural variants and the fossil record.

This talk is part of the Evolution and Development Seminar Series series.

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