Project

Modification of meiotic inheritance for plant breeding applications

Key to plant breeding is the generation of offspring that show new combinations of desired traits. We investigate how we can efficiently change the speed in which plants generate new allele combinations and how such methods can be used in plant breeding and –genetics. New combinations of alleles (i.e. new combinations of traits) are generated during meiosis, through the formation of meiotic crossovers. Control over the rate of crossover recombination therefore holds the key to effective plant breeding. We have previously shown that crossover recombination rates can be transiently increased or decreased in the model plant Arabidopsis. We are currently investigating how high- or low-recombinant offspring can be used for breeding applications. High recombination makes the discovery of rare allele combinations much more efficient, whereas offspring that result from low recombination (chromosome substitution lines) prove to be very powerful tools for mapping complex traits in plants.

Aim

In our ongoing research, we face a variety of challenging research questions:

- Can we develop even more advanced and simpler ways (including non-transgenic ways) to crossover recombination in plants?

- Can we modify meiotic recombination rates in other (crop) species?

- Chromosome substitution lines are powerful tools to dissect complex traits in plants, but have barely been investigated. How can we most efficiently use these lines for the discovery of complex traits?

Approach

Meiotic recombination can be modified in various ways using chemicals, cold- or heat shock, transgenes or the use of modified viruses or new ways that are published in literature. The research approaches therefore vary, but may include advanced molecular techniques.

The modification of meiotic crossover formation requires also monitoring whether the targeted meiotic process is indeed changed (i.e. do more or less crossovers form). To this end we make use of (fluorescent) microscopes to analyze the segregation of chromosomes during meiosis.

Our work into the use of mapping populations based on chromosome substitution lines focuses less on molecular or microscopic techniques, but is aimed at defining challenging research questions and answering these using chromosome substitution lines by growing, crossing and phenotyping plants.

This research combines insights from diverse scientific fields, and therefore is often interdisciplinary in nature.

Student Opportunities

We are open to applications for thesis projects! We have different thesis topics available, including projects with Molecular Techniques, microscopy and Phenotyping.

  • Thesis projects
  • Are you interested? Contact Erik.Wijnker@wur.nl