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Growth and development of higher plants

Research project P5/13 (Research action P5)

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Description :

The aim of this IAP Phase V proposal is to enhance knowledge on molecular mechanisms that regulate the development of plant roots and the interaction of roots with the environment. To this end, 9 research groups of 5 universities will join forces by combining their internationally recognised expertise in plant molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, physiology, cell biology and bio-informatics.
Roots are of crucial importance for the survival of higher plants. Roots provide anchorage of the plant in the soil and they allow the uptake of water and essential minerals. Furthermore, roots continuously have to deal with both biotic and abiotic stress conditions. Finally roots have developed elaborated symbiotic interactions with rhizobia and mycorhiza.

All partners of the proposal jointly will study a limited number of biological questions related to roots:

- Which factors and genes determine root growth? What causes the natural variation of root growth?
- Which genes are responsible for triggering the formation of lateral roots? Emphasis will be given to the very early events leading to the first asymmetric division in the root pericycle.
- What is the inter-relationship between root development and floral evocation? What is the identity of the factors involved?
- How do plant roots respond to different environmental conditions including abiotic and biotic stress: dehydration stress, cadmium toxicity and infection with the fungus Plasmodiaphora? Which elements (genes) of the responses are in common and which elements are specific to a given condition?
- Which factors and genes are involved in the formation of nodules and what are the differences/similarities with the induction of lateral/adventitious roots?
- What is the role of plant hormones in root development and the responses of roots to the environment?

Each partner will be involved in resolving one or more of the questions mentioned above. Using the same model plants (mainly Arabidopsis, Sesbania), the same growth media, conditions, vectors and ecotypes and by applying a common transcript profiling technology (cDNA-AFLP and at a later stage a genome wide micro-array) a strong and multidisciplinary knowledge platform will be created. The establishment of a common database and the setting up of regular meetings will strengthen the network. As such considerable added value will be created which will allow all partners to remain highly competitive at international level.

Through joint publications and posters, the IAP-network will gain international visibility and recognition. The enhanced international contacts will certainly lead to new opportunities to collaborate in scientific projects funded by other agencies (EU, HFSP,...). Special attention will also be paid to the training of pre -and postdoctoral students.

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