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Research Overview


The formation of a flower is an exquisitely controlled process involving the change from vegetative to reproductive growth, followed by the correct placement and development of all the floral organs: sepals, petals, stamens and carpel. Not only is the control of floral development an important biological question but flowering and seed formation is of huge economic significance as it is vital to crop breeding and agricultural productivity.

The tremendous advancements in genetic and molecular biology techniques in the past two decades has meant that a good proportion of the master genetic regulators involved in flowering have already been identified and characterised using Arabidopsis as a model system (see Current Picture). These regulators act as switches, turning on or off different developmental pathways. However, there are still large gaps in our knowledge of what is happening between these regulators and the outcome of their actions.

SYSFLO seeks to address this gap using a systems biology approach to further study the control of reproductive development in Arabidopsis. The project is a collaboration between partners with expertise in laboratory techniques and partners with strengths in bioinformatics and computer modelling (see People). The laboratory based groups will investigate when and where different genes are expressed during floral development and the interactions between these gene products. The computational groups will analyse the results and generate a network model that can begin to integrate all the data. This model will then be used to generate predictions, to be tested experimentally by the lab partners.

For further details on the research being undertaken on the SYSFLO project, please see the individual research project pages.

As a Marie Curie Initial Training Network, SYSFLO is at its core a training ground for a new generation of system biologists (See People). Systems biology is a relatively new approach and is not routinely taught. However, it has a huge potential to take our understanding of genetics forward from studying individual pathways to how entire genetic networks interconnect - a strategy that our fellows, once they leave us, will be able to apply to complex biological questions in any research arena. As well as a new cohort of scientists trained in system biology, there is the potential that bioinformatic tools developed as part of the SYSFLO project could be used to address a host of other questions in the future.

Figure 2Figure 1

Fig 1. Confocal microscope images of an Arabidopsis inflorescence (left) and ovules (right) showing the expression of SEP3-GFP. A SEP3 genomic construct was translationally fused to GFP (Urbanus et al., 2009. BMC Plant Biology) BMC Plant Biology 2009, 9:5 doi:10.1186/1471-2229-9-5