The molecular cytogenetics of meiotic recombination and genome constitution in ryegrasses, fescues, rye and barley
The Meiosis Group led by Dr Glyn Jenkins specialises in the genetic control of meiosis and recombination in higher plants, and in comparative genomics within the Poaceae. Meiotic recombination is the principle force creating the genetic diversity that drives evolution and is the fundamental instrument underlying most crop breeding programs. Meiotic crossover events are not randomly distributed throughout the genome in the UK’s most important crop species such as wheat, barley, oats and forage grasses such as Lolium and Festuca. The localisation of crossing over to distal regions of the chromosomes means that many genes rarely recombine and are inherited together as large linkage blocks, confounding the generation of novel gene combinations and useful variation that could be exploited in breeding programmes.
Current research efforts are focused upon understanding the pairing behaviour of chromosomes and crossing over in this group of plants, with a view to manipulating recombination to release novel genetic variation. We are using molecular cytogenetic methods to investigate the spatio-temporal organisation and expression of key meiotic structural and recombination proteins to understand the fundamental processes that drive recombination to the distal regions. We are achieving this through the generation and use of new meiotic mutants and through changing environmental conditions under which the plants are grown.