Phytowelt News » EpiTRAITS: Phytowelt explores epigenic cell regulation as part of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union

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06/10/2013, Phytowelt Nettetal / Köln

Phytowelt explores epigenic cell regulation as part of the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union


The EU project EpiTRAITS, which has been conducted in cooperation with European partners, such as the Max-Planck Society, the Heinrich-Heine-University and several European research institutes, enables Phytowelt to conduct research into the influence of epigenic regulatory mechanisms for the optimization of cell biology techniques in modern plant breeding. Epigenetics is a new discipline, which explores the influence of environmental conditions on the activity and regulation of the genome. Epigenetics may provide the explanation why and under which conditions certain genes will become active in certain cells and tissues while they remain inactive in other cells.


 


Recently, modifications in gene regulation have been identified as the main cause for the manifestation of plant varieties. This has been emphasized by research at the University of Bonn on the cause of the heterosis effect. The phenomenon of heterosis has long been known in plant breeding through the observation that the crossbreeds of two varieties (e.g. two varieties of maize) deliver significantly more yield than the parent varieties. In 2012 the Bonn researchers could show that this is an epigenic effect, which triggers the activity of several hundred more genes in the crossbred plants than in the parent plants.


 


Until now it has not yet been possible to decode the actuating mechanisms, which imprint these effects in the genome. Respective knowledge will create a foundation for developing strategies for the economic exploitation of epigenic regulatory mechanisms. Various traits like yield or environmental resistibility could thus be improved in a targeted way.


 


“We are already very excited about the project results,” says Dr. Peter Welters, CEO of Phytowelt. “Our key technology phytodiversity and our longstanding expertise in plant cell culture and tissue culture offer the ideal foundation for research in this field. We expect major gains in knowledge from the collaboration with our project partners, all of them contributing considerable expertise in the field of epigenetics in plants. This project offers the opportunity for closing the gap between fundamental research and applied science.”


As part of the EpiTRAITS project a position for a young scientist could be created to investigate epigenic principles in barley (Hordeum vulgare). Since June 1st, the Italian born biologist Massimiliano Carciofi has been working on this subject under the guidance of Phytowelt’s head for cell and tissue culture, Dr. Renate Lührs. Dr. Carciofi gathered extensive experience on the modification of the metabolism of barley during his doctoral thesis work in Denmark.


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