Laboratory of Molecular Genetics of Plant Development
Plants are very interesting living beings! Unlike animals, plants are extremely plastic in responding to changes in the environment and they can shape their own development! Plants are capable to generate new tissues/organs throughout their entire life cycle. The establishment and development of such tissues/organs depend upon several physiological and molecular processes that go on inside the cells. Our research group is interested in studying the formation of vegetative and reproductive organs as well as how plants shape these organs in response to the environment. More specifically, we are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that underline the formation of these organs. Several genetic “players” are involved in such mechanisms, including transcription factors, epigenetic factors (such as DNA methyltransferases) and non-coding RNAs. Small non-coding RNAs (sRNAs) of 19-25 nt in size regulate transcriptionally and posttranscriptionally gene expression, shaping the transcriptome and the proteome of the cells. Amongst them, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs) play crucial roles in plant development. Although siRNAs and miRNAs are both generated by long non-coding RNAs, their biogenesis differs in crucial points. Deep sequencing approaches helped us to identify hundreds of distinct sRNAs that may have important roles in development. For example, our group identified sRNAs associated with sugarcane (an important Brazilian biofuel crop) axillary bud dormancy and development. We identified for example an emerging new class of sRNAs called tRNA-derived fragments or tRFs that may have roles in cell differentiation. We also are studying the roles of specific miRNAs in tomato fruit development and branching. Finally, we are interested in understanding the possible roles of epigenetic factors in the plant response to the environment. To do so, we are using Arabidopsis and tobacco as models. To study these molecular mechanisms, we are using a variety of tools such as: cloning, next-generation deep sequencing, generation of transgenic and mutant plants and in situ hybridization. You can have a look in our main projects going on in the lab.