The research unit on “Chromatin and Growth Control” headed by Mieke Van Lijsebettens focuses on epigenetic and chromatin-related control of growth in Arabidopsis and yield in crops. Complex traits such as plant growth and seed yield are determined by multiple gene activities that contribute to the trait to some extent in specific environmental conditions; we use mutational analysis and epiline selection to identify novel genes or networks that function in growth and yield.

The chromatin state at RNA PII transcript elongation is an important regulatory process in plant growth and development. The conserved Elongator histone H3 acetyl transferase complex and the HUB1 histone H2B monoubiquitination E3 ligase were identified by leaf growth mutants in a mutational analysis programme in Arabidopsis, they activate transcription by changing the chromatin state making the DNA template more accessible for the elongating RNA PII. We study the upstream regulation, target gene specificity, downstream pathways and environmental interaction of these complexes.

Energy use in plants is an important component of yield stability in the field under varying environmental conditions. Epilines were selected in canola and rice using energy use efficiency and seed yield in the field as parameters. Transcriptome, methylome and histone modifications are analyzed in order to identify underlying putative epialleles and networks.

A maize transformation platform is in place for basic and translational research. The transformation efficiency has been improved and the toolbox extended, which allows a higher throughput of constructs and makes the system more versatile.

Icon Chromatin and growth

Chromatin modification enzymes or complexes monoubiquitinate, methylate, acetylate or phosphorylate histones which impact the accessibility of the genomic DNA in processes such as transcription, replication, recombination and mitotic condensation (Nelissen et al., 2007).
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artificial selection 1Plants use epigenetic regulatory mechanisms to coordinate changes in gene expression in order to rapidly respond to the environment.

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Chromatin 1 The leaf is an excellent experimental system to study genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors that impact growth. Indeed, upon initiation and dorsoventral patterning, leaves grow mainly in two dimensions by cell proliferation and cell expansion to reach a species-specific size and shape.

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In multicellular organisms, patterning processes generate axes in the primary body plan, create domains upon organ formation, and lead to differentiation of functional tissues and cell types (Van Lijsebettens and Van Montagu, 2005).
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maize 1

Maize is a monocotyledonous model because of the availability of genomics and genetics resources. It is one of the most important crops worldwide and is used for food, feed and biofuel production.
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