Polar lignin deposition

Supervision: The project will be supervised by Angela Hay at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.

Abstract: Cardamine fruit use an explosive mechanism to disperse their seeds. This morphomechanical innovation evolved in Cardamine, and differs dramatically from the non-explosive fruit found in the rest of the Brassicaceae, including the model species Arabidopsis. During explosive dispersal, the two fruit valves coil rapidly, accelerating the seeds at speeds greater than 10 m/s to disperse over a meters-wide area. The goal of this project is to investigate the genetic basis of explosive seed dispersal. It builds on the key finding that an asymmetric pattern of lignin deposition in a single cell layer of the fruit valve is necessary for explosive coiling. Moreover, this lignin pattern is strictly associated with the evolutionary novelty of explosive seed dispersal in Cardamine. Therefore, this project sets out to identify the genetic basis for polar lignin deposition in explosive fruit. It takes advantage of two sources of genetic variation: induced variation in Cardamine hirsuta mutants, and natural variation in different Cardamine species. By following two experimental approaches – mapping-by-sequencing and comparative transcriptomics – we aim to identify genes underlying polar lignin deposition in explosive fruit of Cardamine. Findings from this project will be important to understand localised lignin deposition and its role in explosive seed dispersal.

Key publication: Hofhuis, H., Moulton, D., Lessinnes, T., Routier-Kierzkowska, A. L., Bomphrey, R. J., Mosca, G., ... & Hay, A. (2016). Morphomechanical innovation drives explosive seed dispersal. Cell, 166(1), 222-233.

Link to the Hay group homepage: https://www.mpipz.mpg.de/hay

Polar lignin deposition (red) in explosive seeds pods of Cardamine.
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