Turning up the heat on plant sex

Posted on Thursday 20th December 2012

Climate change can affect genetic mixing: good and bad news for food production.

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Meiotic proteins ASY1 (red) and Zyp1 (green) in a barley nucleus. 
Image: James Higgins

Research within the School of Biosciences, funded by the BBSRC, is taking a long and detailed look at the fundamental molecular processes by which organisms shuffle and exchange their genes. Looking at barley as a model for cereal food crops, their findings show how genetic exchange during sex can be affected by more subtle increases in temperature than previously recognised. It's a discovery that could impact fields ranging from agricultural development to advanced plant breeding techniques to community-scale climate and ecosystem modelling.

Professor Chris Franklin and colleagues have been looking at the molecular processes behind this variation for over 15 years. He says that "although meiosis has been studied for more than a century, it was not until the late 1980s onwards when scientists started looking at yeast that we really began to understand the underlying biochemical processes".

The full details of this research have recently been added to the BBSRC website here.