The MAD project (12/2021-11/2023) is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (MSCA RISE) Action funded by the European Union’s H2020 Programme under Grant Agreement n° 872417.
Apomixis in plants allows the formation of seeds carrying maternal embryos. While absent in major food crops, it occurs in many plants, including wild relatives of cereals and species of economic interest such as forage grasses and fruit trees. This unique reproductive mode can be achieved through many paths, all involving alterations in the orchestration of the developmental programs underlying sexual reproduction. Since it allows the use of a natural carrier, the seed, for propagating the best genotypes regardless of their constitution, apomixis represents a revolutionary tool for plant breeding programs and for reducing the costs of improved variety seeds. Despite wide-cross breeding programs to introduce the trait in cereals and decades of research using both sexual plant models and apomictic species, apomixis remains an enigma for plant biologists and a long-awaited tool by breeders and farmers. Functional analyses in Arabidopsis and maize have provided valuable molecular information to understand sexual reproduction and, occasionally, to explore alterations yielding phenotypes reminiscent of apomixis. On the other hand, the recent advances in « omics » tools and biotechnologies have opened the route for investigating apomictic species at unprecedented, cellular and molecular levels. The MAD (Mechanisms of Apomictic Development) project will establish an international, research and training network aiming at contributing significantly to our understanding of key mechanisms involved in redirecting sexuality in plants towards apomixis. It bridges critical knowledge and biological resources recently generated by collaborative efforts in the field of apomixis biology, and novel expertise in plant reproductive biology, biotechnology and breeding by aggregating new partners. Through research, training and dissemination actions, the project will clarify the genetic architecture of apomixis and support the deployment of innovative strategies in crop improvement.
- Department of Biosciences, University of Milan, Italy (PI: L Colombo)
- Department of Agronomy Food Natural Resources Animals and Environment, University of Padova, Italy (PI: G Barcaccia)
- Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Science, University of Perugia, Italy (PI: E Albertini)
- Institute of Biosciences and BioResources, National Research Council, Italy (PI: F Pupilli)
- Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Zürich, Switzerland (PI: U Grossniklaus)
- Crop Bioinformatics group, National Institute for Agricultural Biology, UK (PI: M Caccamo)
- Instituto de Investigaciones en Ciencias Agrarias, CONICET - Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina (PI: S Pessino)
- Centro de Recursos Naturales Renovables de la Zona Semiárida, CONICET - Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina (PI: V Echenique)
- Instituto de Botánica del Nordeste, CONICET - Universidad Nacional del Nordeste, Argentina (PI: F Espinoza)
- School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Australia (PI: M Tucker)
- Laboratorio Nacional de Genomica para la Biodiversidad, Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico (PI: S Gillmor)