Natural variation in plant development



Carlos Alonso-Blanco

Group Leader



Research summary

The main objective of our research is to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in plant adaptation. We are dissecting the genetic variation in the model annual plant Arabidopsis thalianain nature. Similar to many other plant species, individuals and populations of A. thaliana living in different geographical regions differ in many developmental traits that are presumed to reflect adaptations to different environments.





The 1001 Genomes Consortium. 1135 sequenced natural inbred lines reveal the global pattern of polymorphism in Arabidopsis thaliana. Cell 2016; 166: 481-491

Vidigal DS, Marques AC, Willems LA, Buijs G, Méndez-Vigo B, Hilhorst HW, Bentsink L, Picó FX, Alonso-Blanco C. Altitudinal and climatic associations of seed dormancy and flowering traits evidence adaptation of annual life cycle timing in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Cell Environ 2016; 39: 1737-1748

Méndez-Vigo B, Savic M, Ausín I, Ramiro M, Martín B, Picó FX, Alonso-Blanco C. Environmental and genetic interactions reveal FLOWERING LOCUS C as a modulator of the natural variation for the plasticity of flowering in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell Environ 2016; 39: 282-294

Zhu W, Ausin I, Seleznev A, Mendez-Vigo B, Pico FX, Sureshkumar S, Sundaramoorthi V, Bulach D, Powell D, Seemann T, Alonso-Blanco C, Balasubramanian S. Natural variation identifies ICARUS1, a universal gene required for cell proliferation and growth at high temperatures in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS Genet 2015; 11: e1005085

Abe M, Kaya H, Watanabe- Taneda A, Shibuta M, Yamaguchi A, Sakamoto T, Kurata T, Ausín I, Araki T, Alonso-Blanco C. FE, a phloem-specific Myb-related protein, promotes flowering through transcriptional activation of FLOWERING LOCUS T and FLOWERING LOCUS T INTERACTING PROTEIN 1. Plant J 2015; 83: 1059-1068


Fig2CABThe main goal of our laboratory is to understand the genetic, molecular and evolutionary mechanisms involved in plant adaptation. We are specifically interested in determining how developmental traits such as flowering time or vegetative growth allow plant adaptation to different climates. To address this question, we are mainly exploiting the natural genetic variation within the wild annual model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Our research currently focuses on two specific objectives.

First, we aim to identify the genes and nucleotide polymorphisms that account for the natural variation of plant development. We recently identified the ICARUS gene, which encodes a t‑RNA-His guanylyl transferase, as responsible for severe growth defects that are reversible depending on temperature (Zhu et al., 2015). In addition, we showed that FLC is a modulator of the natural variation for plasticity of flowering relative to multiple environmental factors (Méndez-Vigo et al., 2016).

Second, given the current importance of climate change, we aim to identify new genes and natural alleles involved in adaptation to different climates. We are exploiting an Arabidopsis thaliana regional collection of more than 300 wild accessions collected in the Iberian peninsula. The genome sequence of 174 of these Iberian accessions was obtained as part of the 1001 Arabidopsis Genome Project (The 1001 Genomes Consortium, 2016). We have analysed this collection to determine the relevance of flowering time and seed dormancy in climatic adaptation and to identify some of the genes that might drive this adaptation (Vidigal et al., 2016).

logolife150In collaboration with Dr Antonio Leyva from the CNB, we also study the application of natural isolates of duckweed aquatic plants for water phytoremediation. In particular, our lab is currently involved in the project “Duckweed technology for improving nutrient management and resource efficiency in pig” ( funded by the LIFE Programme of the European Commission (Grant number LIFE15 ENV/ES/000382). 




Carlos Alonso-Blanco Principal investigator
Belén Méndez de Vigo Postdoctoral scientist
Almudena Mollá Morales Postdoctoral scientist
Noelia Arteaga Predoctoral scientist
Mercedes Ramiro Technician

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