Fruits play a central role in agriculture since they are the harvested product for many crop species. A detailed understanding of the major genes that control fruit development is likely to lead to important agricultural applications that will dramatically increase crop yield, such as increasing the number of seeds per fruit, enlarging the fruit, allowing fruit growth in the absence of fertilization, and controlling seed loss and dispersal. Arabidopsis has become the model organism of choice for plant biologists worldwide, and our previous studies identified the major genes that control fruit development in Arabidopsis. Recently, a new type of gene, microRNAs have been shown to have a major impact on the regulation of gene activity in plants and animals. These microRNA genes have not previously been studied in terms of their roles during fruit development. Our proposal aims to uncover the critical roles that these microRNA genes play in the control of fruit development. The project will provide advanced training for a postdoctoral scholar and undergraduate researchers will also be directly involved. The project will participate in an ongoing program with the vision of increasing the number of under represented groups at every level of the scientific enterprise. Throughout the project, fellowships will allow students from diverse San Diego and Los Angeles high schools to participate in intensive and extended programs aimed at recruiting them to science careers and aiding in retention. Thus, the project will impact human resource development, understanding of central problems in plant science and will also be applicable to a wide range of agricultural applications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Amy Litt
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University of California San Diego
La Jolla
United States
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