Adrian Overly L&S Sciences
Investigating the Genetic Basis of Photoperiodic Flowering in Mimulus guttatus
Critical photoperiod, the threshold day length that accelerates or is required for flowering, allows plants to flower in response to seasonal cues that indicate environmental conditions should be favorable for seed development. Twenty-first century climate change, however, has led to changing precipitation and temperature patterns, and because day length will remain constant, the same photoperiod may not necessarily predict the best time of year to flower on a local scale. Species unable to evolve their flowering responses to photoperiod are at high risk for extinction. Understanding the genetic basis of flowering responses to photoperiod is important to understanding how genetic factors may constrain or foster adaptation to climate change as well as illuminating possible targets for conservation genetics and crop improvement. While research in Arabidopsis has described the molecular mechanisms by which photoperiod regulates flowering, the genetic basis of flowering responses to photoperiod and how they vary in the common monkeyflower Mimulus guttatus is not well characterized. Candidate genes responsible for M. guttatus flowering responses to photoperiod have been identified. Many of these genes are homologous to photoperiodic flowering genes in Arabidopsis, yet are considerably divergent. Using the CRISPR/Cas9 system to knockout candidate genes, I would like to test whether these genes function to regulate critical photoperiod.