WP 4: Pleiotropic effects of FTi genes and impact on adaptation and speciation
This and the following work package will rely on findings from the WPs 1, 2, 3. Discovering the pleiotropic effects of FTi genes is an emerging field of research with large impact on crop improvement. This research will also deepen our understanding of plant evolution and adaptive processes. Recent data have shown that FTi gene expression might trigger a cascade of regulatory effects with a broad global effect on plant development. Projects shall focus on relationships between FTi and developmental traits, stress response, seed dormancy and yield components (goal No. 4).
During the course of the SPP project multiple plant resources will be developed and used to acquire information about the genetic control of flowering under standard as well as a number of stress conditions like drought, heat, cold, salinity and nutrient depletion. The plant resources will include artificial populations like doubled haploid lines, recombinant inbred lines, nested association mapping lines, nearly isogenic lines, mutation induced lines (e.g. TILLING) and transgenic lines as well as natural populations collected from exotic and elite plant material. All populations have been selected in order to generate plant resources which exhibit a maximum of diversity in regard to the trait complex flowering time.
Drought stress is a serious problem in agriculture. Avoiding drought stress by shifting the onset of flowering shall be investigated in cereals and legumes where drought stress causes severe yield losses. These studies will be supported by the availability of three fully sequenced legume genomes.
Brassica species like rapeseed shall be another focus of research. The major question is: How do FTi regulators influence yield and heterosis in oilseed rape (goal No. 4)? A large set of oilseed rape lines with different FTi and yielding characters will be analyzed. A detailed association study of FTi and seed yield will be performed and FTi regulators will be identified by map based cloning and deep transcriptome sequencing. FTi genes as yield components will be compared to other seed crops like wheat, barley and legumes.
Another focus of research will be on evolutionary aspects of FTi in wild species and cultivated species and their wild relatives after natural or artificial selection and their role in speciation and for species stability. Projects in this WP will tackle the question which genetic modification plants have undergone during evolution to adapt flowering time to changing environmental conditions, in particular the length of the vegetation period (goals No. 1, 2). Research projects to study the evolution of FTi in response to changing environmental factors shall be funded. Those projects focussing on changing climate conditions will receive special attention.