AUSTIN, Texas —Dr. Mark A. Estelle, a professor in the molecular, cellular and developmental biology section of the College of Natural Sciences, will lead a three-year research project focusing on a plant hormone involved in the regulation of virtually every aspect of the development of higher plant species.
The hormone, called auxin, is of major importance to agriculture because it affects such aspects of plant growth as stature, architecture of shoots and roots, strength of shoots, seed size, fruit size and fruit ripening.
Funded by a National Science Foundation grant of $1.3 million, the research will be conducted by a five-member team from The University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Massachusetts and Boston University. Estelle, the D.J. Sibley Centennial Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics, will be principal investigator.
The award is one of 16 new NSF grants totaling $48 million over the next five years that are intended to improve understanding of the structure and function of all plant genes, including those from economically important crops like corn, wheat and rice.
Researchers have found that many of the pathways involved in building and maintaining plants are regulated by chemical signals known as plant hormones. If the functions of these pathways are to be fully understood, it will be necessary to gain a better understanding of how these hormones function.
Research funded at UT Austin will develop new genetic screens for mutations affecting the synthesis and action of auxin. While some of these genes already have been identified, this research will be the first to attempt to collect a large number of mutants with defects in all aspects of auxin biology.
For more information, contact Dr. Mark A. Estelle at (512) 232-5559.