The EpiTRAITS project
The mission of EpiTRAITS is to train young researchers in epigenetic gene regulation and flowering in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the crop plants maize (Zea mays) and barley (Hordeum vulgare). Epigenetic gene regulation confers stability of gene expression patterns through cell divisions while allowing changes in expression in response to environmental or developmental cues. Although changes in epigenetic gene regulation are a major cause for trait variation, no rational strategies have been developed that utilize this knowledge for crop breeding purposes. EpiTRAITS will focus on one of the key plant traits, flowering, which is controlled by various epigenetic mechanisms. The scientific program aims to bridge the gap between fundamental and applied research by translating results from epigenetic research in model organisms to improved technologies for crop breeding and molecular diagnostic tools.