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Lars Østergaard

Date & Location: November 9, 2020, at 4p; Virtual visit

Subject: Heart-breaking stories from the shepard’s purse; on the basis of fruit shape diversity

Host: Courtney Hollender

About the Speaker

Institution: John Innes Centre

Research Interests: Østergaard investigates the genetic and hormonal regulation of fruit development in the Brassicaceae family. The Østergaard group is developing genetic and genomic resources for Brassicaceae research and is using both molecular genetics and functional genomics to study fruit growth. Members of the Brassica genus include important crop plants such as oilseed rape (Brassica napus). They belong to the Brassicaceae family which also include the model plant Arabidopsis.

The close evolutionary relationship between Brassica species and Arabidopsis is reflected in similar plant architecture and organ morphology. One strand of Østergaard’s research takes a comparative approach using developmental genetics and computational modelling to study how fruits acquire their shape. The cylindrical Arabidopsis fruit and the heart-shaped fruit from Capsella provides excellent model systems allowing identification of key factors and mechanisms involved.

Another strand of research in Østergaard’s lab aims to understand how the hormone auxin is perceived during organogenesis to regulate gene expression. In particular, they are focused on understanding a non-canonical mechanism of auxin signalling involving the auxin response factor, ETTIN.

In addition to the academic satisfaction of understanding biological processes, the knowledge acquired during studies of fruit development among Brassicaceae provides an enormous potential for knowledge transfer to improve crop performance. Østergaard has already demonstrated the power of such a translational approach. Work in his group first demonstrated that the genetic control of seed dispersal is conserved across members of the Brassicaceae family. Subsequently, they used this knowledge to control this process in oilseed rape, which is known as pod shatter. Østergaard is focused on pursuing more of such translational opportunities.