Lead Chief Investigator: John Bowman, Monash University


Land plants evolved from an ancestral freshwater alga and, along the way, acquired several genetic innovations, some of which were critical for their survival on land.  

Among these were expansions in several transcription factor gene families (ERF, bHLH, GRAS, NAC, MYB), the evolution of multiple hormone pathways, and the expansion of peptide signalling networks.  

The aims of this project are to:  

  • to define the genetic network present in the ancestral land plant 
  • investigate how new gene family members integrate into presumptive pre-existing genetic networks 
  • explore how the ancestral genetic network has been modified within land plant evolution.  

In the best-case scenario, we will provide a foundation for exploring the evolution of genetic networks from the ancestral plant to more derived species.  

We hope to ascertain whether this approach will provide useful data on ancestral character states that could illuminate fundamental relationships that may not be easily perturbed (through nature selection pressure), or previously unsuspected relationships that could be explored within the context of other species. 

Our approach

As significant advances have recently been made in hormone signalling, we will focus on the expanded transcription factor gene families. 

We will generate datasets of expression profiles of null loss-of-function and inducible gain-of-function alleles of a select set of land-plant specific members of transcription factor gene families from which genetic network architecture can be inferred.  

Once a baseline is established, we envisage more sophisticated approaches targeting the role of specific cis-regulatory elements.