Scientific and Budget Coordination
Early land plants have met the challenge of continuous range expansion, further away from water, always at risk of dehydration. Consequently, also the sexual reproduction of land plants is geared towards independency of water. Several key innovations in sexual reproduction originated in the land plant lineage, such as spores with a rigid outer surface, ovules harboring reduced female gametophytes and a multicellular embryo that is dispersed within seeds in a dehydrated state. Hence, the evolution of sexual reproduction in land plants provides stunning examples for the crucial biological concepts of ‚innovation‘ (e.g., origin of new reproductive structures such as ovules and flowers), and ‚coevolution‘ (e.g. between signalling peptides and receptors involved in fertilization). The evolutionary dynamics and molecular mechanisms underlying these processes are only poorly understood. In the Research Unit (RU) ICIPS seven independent research groups will bring together complementary expertise in plant molecular, developmental, cell and evolutionary biology, supported by a group with core expertise in computation and bioinformatics, to shed light on the molecular mechanisms that drive innovations in plant reproduction. ICIPS will target the evolution of key transcription factor families, the gene regulatory networks they are involved in as well as the communication between male and female reproductive structures. Here, we will establish the basis for comparisons of temporal and spatial ROS dynamics during the evolution of land plant sexual reproduction. We will put an emphasis on phylogeny and coevolution of non-seed plant relatives of genes that control crucial morphogenetic events in spermatophytes such as seed and flower development. We will combine state of the art methods of molecular biology, cell biology, in vivo imaging with genetically-encoded biosensors, genomics and transcriptomics, genome editing and bioinformatics in non-seed plant model systems that only recently have become fully established for such studies, such as the liverwort Marchantia, the moss Physcomitrium and the fern Ceratopteris. Further, this RU will foster the development of a community for young researchers in the field of evolutionary developmental biology in Germany, who will routinely combine approaches from molecular genetics and cell biology with smart bioinformatics and extend established and novel methods to non-seed plant model species.