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Sainsbury Laboratory

I am interested in how genetically identical individuals can differ from each other even within a common environment. Such inter-individual variability can be beneficial when future environmental conditions are unpredictable. This phenomenon has been studied in microbes, where variability between genetically identical cells forms the basis for some forms of antibiotic resistance. Here, specific gene regulatory networks appear to have evolved to amplify stochastic molecular fluctuations, creating differences between genetically identical cells. However, little is known about the mechanisms that underlie phenotypic variability in plants. Previous work suggests that elevated variability in seed germination time confers a selective advantage in unpredictable environments. I am using Arabidopsis seed germination as a study system for uncovering developmental mechanisms underlying phenotypic variability in plants.

Previous work

During my PhD, I used a combination of experimental work and computational modelling to investigate the mechanisms underlying cell polarity in plants and animals.

Key Publications

Abley K*, Formosa-Jordan P*, Tavares H, Chan EYT, Afsharinafar M, Leyser O, Locke JCW. (2021) An ABA-GA bistable switch can account for natural variation in the variability of Arabidopsis seed germination time. eLife 10:e59485.

Abley K, Locke JC, Leyser HO. 2016. Developmental mechanisms underlying variable, invariant and plastic phenotypes. Annals of botany, 117: 733-748.

Abley K, Sauret-Gueto S , Marée AFM, Coen E. Formation of Polarity Convergences underlying Shoot Outgrowths. eLife (in press).

Abley K*, De Reuille PB*, Strutt D, Bangham A, Prusinkiewicz P, Maree AF, Grieneisen VA, Coen E. 2013. An intracellular partitioning-based framework for tissue cell polarity in plants and animals. Development, 140: 2061-74.

*These authors contributed equally

Project Manager
Dr Katie  Abley

Contact Details

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
47 Bateman Street