Student looking at the effect of light on plant samples.

Molecular Analysis of Floral Gene Expression

Principal Investigator

Alan Smith

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number


Funding Type


Project Start and End Date

October 1, 2017-September 30, 2022

Project Summary

Plant growth, pollination and pollen tube growth is a prerequisite to fertilization that is essential to the formation of seeds and fruits for most crops. It is critical to understand the regulation of pollen tube growth to ensure efficient seed set, plant productivity and food security. Genes important to growth, reproduction and the evolution of new species will be identified and analyzed to provide a basis to manipulate these processes for crop improvement. Interactions between the pollen (male gametes of plants) and pistil (female reproductive organ of plants) determine pollination compatibilities that function to allow hybrids to form or maintain separate species by acting as a barrier. Flower development is important for crop yield, a primary character of ornamental value, a major determinant of a plant's invasiveness, and is the route for gene flow from genetically modified plants.

This research project will increase the understanding of stamen and pistil development, the function of genes in reproduction, and mechanisms that control organ-specific expression. These data are used in applications to produce plants with reduced size, reduced invasiveness, and other improved horticultural traits. Invasive species are a primary threat to biodiversity on the planet, second only to habitat destruction, and are one of the least reversible of all human impacts on the environment. They threaten natural areas by competing with native taxa, altering habitats, introducing new genes or alleles to populations, and disturbing ecosystem processes. This research will produce information to better understand the nature of invasive plants as well as develop strategies to eliminate the invasive potential of popular landscape plants.