Our group is interested in the mechanisms underlying sexual reproduction and early embryogenesis with a particular focus on the role of the male gametes. Contrary to previous assumptions recent studies have shown that male gametes both in the plant and animal kingdom carry complex sets of RNA molecules, including not only mRNAs but also small RNAs. We are particularly interested in the role of these two RNA classes before, during and after double fertilization as it occurs in higher plants. Using Arabidopsis thaliana as our primary experimental model we are addressing specific questions like: (1) What are the functions of small RNA and DNA methylation pathways in sperm cells? (2) Do sperm cell derived RNAs play a role after fertilization? (3) Do conserved core sets of genetic modules underlie common characteristics of male gametes across kingdoms?. In a second research line we are analyzing the symbiotic transcriptome of the model legume Medicago truncatula, both for nodule and mycorrhizal symbiosis, leading to the creation of a gene expression database that will allow the in-depth analysis of the symbiontic genetic programme.
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) Research Grant (PTDC/AGR-GPL/103778/2008)
Rob Martienssen, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, USA Keith Slotkin, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA