Career Development Fellow
University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB2 1LR
Office Phone: 01223 761148
Katie’s group is interested in how plants control their development in response to a changing environment. Sensing, integrating and remembering environmental information allows plants to make key life-cycle decisions at the right time to optimize their fitness. These questions are of interest from both a fundamental scientific perspective as well as having potential application for breeding stress-resilient crops.
We are studying these processes in two systems: Arabidopsis thaliana, which offers unparalleled genetic and epigenetic resources and the small grass Brachypodium distachyon, which is closely related to monocot crop plants such as wheat, barley and rye. Brachypodium distachyon is an ideal model species, with a small sequenced genome to study plant genome by environment interactions, since it has excellent genetics and can be easily transformed to generate transgenic lines.
We are particularly interested in how plants utilize their developmental plasticity to adapt to their environment. As a model system, we aim to understand how day length influences time to flower, how this environmental signal is sensed, and how this information is integrated direct development. To break down these questions, we are focusing on three research strands:
How conserved is the floral induction pathway?
The induction of flowering is a key developmental decision. Plants integrate multiple environmental cues including temperature, photoperiod and light quality, to flower in the correct season. Previously we and others have shown that a mobile peptide is generated in the leaves of the Arabidopsis thaliana in response to long day length and that this florigenic signal moves from the leaves to the apex, triggering the formation of flowers. To understand the regulatory logic underpinning the floral transition we have adopted a mathematical modelling approach with the group of Richard Morris at the JIC
To understand the extent to which this system is conserved between the dicotyledonous model plant A.thaliana and the monocots, we are investigating flowering in Brachypodium distachyon. We are adopting a molecular genetic approach in this species and this will enable us to extend our computational model to Brachypodium. Furthermore we want to elaborate the model to integrate diverse environmental conditions and predict the phenotype of a given genotype in a given environment.
How do plants remember temperature stress?
A fundamental question in biology is to understand how the information encoded within a genome interacts with the environment to determine the final developmental outcome. We are only beginning to understand how a given genotype translates into a phenotype and how the environment influences this. Plants develop continuously throughout their lifecycle, and are therefore ideally suited to study this question. Plants need to be able to respond and adapt to recurring biotic and abiotic stresses, as they cannot move away from them. We are currently performing a forward genetic screen to identify important players in this process.
How are growth and development coordinated with environmental signals?
The remarkable flexibility of plant development suggests the presence of pathways and mechanisms to adjust growth and developmental responses to the environment. It is likely that these pathways include post-transcriptional mechanisms. We are using forward genetics and targeted approaches to investigate potential mechanisms.
Selected recent publications
Jaeger KE, Pullen N, Lamzin S, Morris RJ, Wigge PA. (2013) Interlocking feedback loops govern the dynamic behavior of the floral transition in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell. 25(3):820-33
Transcription factor PIF4 controls the thermosensory activation of flowering. Kumar SV, Lucyshyn D, Jaeger KE, Alós E, Alvey E, Harberd NP, Wigge PA. Nature. 2012 Mar 21;484(7393):242-5.
FT protein acts as a long-range signal in Arabidopsis. Jaeger KE, Wigge PA. Curr Biol. 2007 Jun 19;17(12):1050-4.
Integration of spatial and temporal information during floral induction in Arabidopsis. Wigge PA, Kim MC, Jaeger KE, Busch W, Schmid M, Lohmann J, Weigel D. Science. 2005 Aug 12;309(5737):1056-9.