General overview and objectives

The scientific goal of the project is to understand how epigenetic regulation modulates the expression of genes involved in the switch from vegetative to reproductive growth (i.e. floral transition) and flower development. Arabidopsis thaliana and the crop plants maize (Zea mays) and barley (Hordeum vulgare) will be used as model plants in our project. Floral transition and flower development are key developmental processes in the life cycle of plants and are directly linked to seed production and harvest time and therefore the most important traits for plant breeding. Full understanding of epigenetic mechanisms underlying flowering is crucial to exploit the genetic variation available in breeding programs. In addition, a better understanding of epigenetic gene regulation in plants will spin off to studies on animal development and human diseases such as cancer.

The spectacular developments in high throughput technologies, such as next-generation sequencing, require new generation scientists who can solve complex biological problems using a multi-disciplinary approach with knowledge of state-of-the-art-technologies. The EpiTRAITS training program exploits both the technical and scientific developments in epigenetic research and will train young scientists to become experts in both of these aspects. The required know-how and technology is available in the different labs of the network partners. Moreover, the involvement of academic and private sector partners in the scientific research program will equip the fellows with skills required to interact between the two sectors and pursue a successful career in both sectors.