Executive Summary

This project will identify the principles governing genome replication in relation to the chromatin landscape and how they impact on plant organ growth. The results will provide the basis to design novel strategies to improve plant growth performance.

The large plant genomes, as in all eukaryotes, must be faithfully duplicated every cell cycle, a process regulated at the level of DNA replication origins (ORIs). Our understanding of how ORIs are determined is still very limited. Most of our knowledge comes from cultured cells, precluding the identification of regulatory layers operating at the organism level. Importantly, genome replication can offer unexplored possibilities to modulate plant architecture and growth and, consequently, plant performance.

Results generated so far unable us to address a fundamental question: what are the regulatory mechanisms of DNA and genome replication and how they can be exploited to design improved plant growth strategies.

This innovative perspective will reveal how genome replication is regulated by DNA sequence context, replication factors and chromatin landscape. Integration of molecular, cellular, genomic and genetic approaches in a whole organism will serve to evaluate the phenotypic effects of modulating genome replication on organ growth. We will also learn how DNA replication control is exerted during endoreplication and in coordination with transcriptional programs, both crucial for plant organogenesis, growth and response to environmental stresses.

This program goes beyond incremental research, is timely, innovative, ambitious but realistic, and high risk/high gain, combining different approaches to address a fundamental process. Given the conservation of proteins and pathways, and the availability of well-annotated genomic information for many plant species, PLANTGROWTH will pave the way to translate the technological and conceptual know-how derived from this program to crop species to improve yield.