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The 17th Umesono Prize Award Ceremony was held

The 17th Umezono Prize was awarded to Dr. Tatsuya Hisanaga (Postdoctoral researcher in the Berger Group, Gregor Mendel Institute). Dr. Hisanaga was a postdoctoral fellow in the Plant Developmental Signaling Laboratory at NAIST from 2014 to 2018.
The award ceremony and the commemorative lecture were held online on September 30th with many students and staff members attending the event.

The Umesono Prize has been awarded annually since 2004 to young researchers in Graduate School (Division) of Biological Sciences at NAIST who significantly contributed to biological sciences during his/her years at the institute. The prize is awarded to young researchers with a bright future to follow in the footprints of Dr. Umesono, who enriched us with his personal and intellectual generosity. His spirit continues to inspire us and light our way. The award is mainly based on the originality and academic value of a paper which the awardee wrote as a first author.


Research Title

Evolutionary insights into plant sexual differentiation revealed by studying the model bryophyte, Marchantia polymorpha

Life cycle of land plants alternates between a diploid sporophyte and a haploid gametophyte. While ancestral land plants are thought to have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle as extant bryophytes do, flowering plants possessed a sporophyte-dominant life cycle with extremely reduced gametophytes during land plant evolution. Due to this reduction of gametophytes in model flowering plants, molecular mechanisms regulating sexual differentiation of gametophytes and gametes, which are critical steps of sexual reproduction, are not fully understood. To untangle this problem, we focused on a model bryophyte, Marchantia polymorpha, which has several advantages for studying mechanisms of sexual reproduction. Using this model system, we identified a MYB-type transcription factor, MpFGMYB, as a key regulator of female sexual differentiation in M. polymorpha. MpFGMYB is specifically expressed in females and its loss resulted in female-to-male sex conversion. Strikingly, MpFGMYB expression is suppressed in males by a cis-acting antisense gene SUF at the same locus, and loss-of-function suf mutations resulted in male-to-female sex conversion. Thus, the bidirectional transcription module at the MpFGMYB/SUF locus acts as a toggle between female and male sexual differentiation in M. polymorpha gametophytes. Arabidopsis thaliana MpFGMYB orthologs are known to be expressed in embryo sacs and promote their development. Thus, phylogenetically related MYB transcription factors regulate female gametophyte development across land plants.

(October 27, 2020)

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