Genetic Analysis of Root Architecture Traits

A project undertaken at The School of Biological Sciences, The University of Sydney, and supervised by J Saleeba


Efficient plant growth in food production makes the best use of valuable environmental resources. While considerable effort has been expended to improve agricultural and horticultural varieties based on aerial structures of plants, there has been relatively little focus on roots. Efficient nutrient and water uptake depends on the presence of a robust root system. Secondary and higher order roots provide much of the advantage of robust root systems. Studies into the molecular nature of lateral root initiation and elongation have only gone so far towards an understanding of the genetics of root architecture. A glaring gap in our knowledge is the effect of genetically complex traits, encoded by the combined effect of multiple loci, on root architecture.

This project has taken the first fundamental steps towards discovering the complex genetic mechanisms behind root architecture in the genetic model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. The project has mapped at least eight loci involved in primary root branching, showing that branching is genetically complex. These investigations have opened the way to the characterisation of genes encoding a complex root architecture trait. Further study of these genes will increase our understanding of the genetic mechanisms behind root architecture.


Root architecture of an Arabidopsis thaliana seedling