Genetic and epigenetic control of plant reproduction

Plant Developmental Genetics

Our research centers on the genetic and epigenetic control of plant reproduction. We are interested in both sexual reproduction and apomixis, a form of asexual reproduction through seeds. We use Arabidopsis thaliana and Zea may sas model systems, but also work with several other plant species.

Our studies have shown that both genetic and epigenetic mechanisms play a key role in plant reproduction. The long term goal of our research is to elucidate the role of positional information, cell-cell communication and epigenetic regulation of gene expression in plant morphogenesis and cellular differentiation. Furthermore we are investigating the role of epigenetic mechanisms in development, ecology, and evolution. Towards these goals we use a broad range of integrated, interdisciplinary approaches combining classical genetics, systems biology, ecology, chemistry and mathematics, and we collaborate both scientifically and technically with a number of institutions in Switzerland, as well as abroad. Our research is funded by a number of sources, notably the European Union, the Swiss National Science Foundation,, the Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center, and University Research Priority Program Systems Biology/Functional Genomics.

Recent Publications

  • The SMC5/6 Complex Subunit NSE4A Is Involved in DNA Damage Repair and Seed Development
    Diaz, M; Pecinkova, P; Nowicka, A; Baroux, C; Sakamoto, T; Gandha, PY; Jerabkova, H; Matsunaga, S; Grossniklaus, U; Pecinka, A
    PLANT CELL, 31 (7):1579-1597; 10.1105/tpc.18.00043 JUL 2019
  • Invasive DNA elements modify the nuclear architecture of their insertion site by KNOT-linked silencing in Arabidopsis thaliana
    Grob, S; Grossniklaus, U
    GENOME BIOLOGY, 20 10.1186/s13059-019-1722-3 JUN 11 2019
  • Seeds – An evolutionary innovation underlying reproductive success in flowering plants
    Baroux, C; Grossniklaus, U
    PLANT DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTION, 131 605-+; 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2018.11.017 2019
    Current Topics in Developmental Biology
  • The Boechera Genus as a Resource for Apomixis Research
    Brukhin, V; Osadtchiy, JV; Florez-Rueda, AM; Smetanin, D; Bakin, E; Nobre, MS; Grossniklaus, U
    FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 10 10.3389/fpls.2019.00392 APR 2 2019
  • Consistent Reanalysis of Genome-wide Imprinting Studies in Plants Using Generalized Linear Models Increases Concordance across Datasets
    Wyder, Stefan; Raissig, Michael T.; Grossniklaus, Ueli
    SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 9 10.1038/s41598-018-36768-4 FEB 4 2019
  • Contribution of epigenetic variation to adaptation in Arabidopsis
    Schmid, MW; Heichinger, C; Schmid, DC; Guthorl, D; Gagliardini, V; Bruggmann, R; Aluri, S; Aquino, C; Schmid, B; Turnbull, LA; Grossniklaus, U
    NATURE COMMUNICATIONS, 9 10.1038/s41467-018-06932-5 OCT 25 2018
  • Whole-mount Clearing and Staining of Arabidopsis Flower Organs and Siliques
    Hedhly, A; Vogler, H; Eichenberger, C; Grossniklaus, U
  • Feeling the force: how pollen tubes deal with obstacles
    Burri, Jan T.; Vogler, Hannes; Laubli, Nino F.; Hu, Chengzhi; Grossniklaus, Ueli; Nelson, Bradley J.
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 220 (1):187-195; 10.1111/nph.15260 OCT 2018
  • Improved Brassica rapa reference genome by single-molecule sequencing and chromosome conformation capture technologies
    Zhang, L; Cai, X; Wu, J; Liu, M; Grob, S; Cheng, F; Liang, JL; Cai, CC; Liu, ZY; Liu, B; Wang, F; Li, S; Liu, FY; Li, XM; Cheng, L; Yang, WC; Li, MH; Grossniklaus, U; Zheng, HK; Wang, XW
    HORTICULTURE RESEARCH, 5 10.1038/s41438-018-0071-9 AUG 15 2018
  • Aberrant imprinting may underlie evolution of parthenogenesis
    Kirioukhova, O; Shah, JN; Larsen, DS; Tayyab, M; Mueller, NE; Govind, G; Baroux, C; Federer, M; Gheyselinck, J; Barrell, PJ; Ma, H; Sprunck, S; Huettel, B; Wallace, H; Grossniklaus, U; Johnston, AJ
  • Assembly of the Boechera retrofracta Genome and Evolutionary Analysis of Apomixis-Associated Genes
    Kliver, S; Rayko, M; Komissarov, A; Bakin, E; Zhernakova, D; Prasad, K; Rushworth, C; Baskar, R; Smetanin, D; Schmutz, J; Rokhsar, DS; Mitchell-Olds, T; Grossniklaus, U; Brukhin, V
    GENES, 9 (4):10.3390/genes9040185 APR 2018
  • LRX Proteins Play a Crucial Role in Pollen Grain and Pollen Tube Cell Wall Development
    Fabrice, TN; Vogler, H; Draeger, C; Munglani, G; Gupta, S; Herger, AG; Knox, P; Grossniklaus, U; Ringli, C
    PLANT PHYSIOLOGY, 176 (3):1981-1992; MAR 2018
  • Extensive epigenetic reprogramming during the life cycle of Marchantia polymorpha 
    Schmid, Marc W.; Giraldo-Fonseca, Alejandro; Roevekamp, Moritz; et al. 
    GENOME BIOLOGY, 19: 10.1186/s13059-017-1383-z JAN 25 2018
  • RALF4/19 peptides interact with LRX proteins to control pollen tube growth in Arabidopsis 
    Mecchia, Martin A.; Santos-Fernandez, Gorka; Duss, Nadine N.; et al. 
    SCIENCE, 358 (6370): 1600-1603 10.1126/science.aao5467  DEC 22 2017
  • Polyspermy produces tri-parental seeds in maize 
    Grossniklaus, Ueli 
    CURRENT BIOLOGY, 27 (24): R1300-R1302 10.1016/j.cub.2017.10.059  DEC 18 2017

Prof. Dr. Ueli Grossniklaus
University of Zurich
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 82 40

Research topics

  • Genetic and molecular mechanisms controlling female gametophyte development and function, focusing on cell specification and fertilization
  • Investigation of the molecular basis of parental effects and genomic imprinting in plants
  • Genetics and epigenetics of adaptation in a changing environment
  • Identification of apomictic traits in maize using genetic approaches
  • Systems biology of reproductive tissues of Arabidopsis thaliana


  • Joint projects with mathematicians and computational scientists: B. Hellriegel (Verlag Birkhäuser, Basel), R. Smith (UniBe), T. Wicker (UZH), C. von Mering (UZH)
  • Joint projects with ecologists: J. Stöcklin (UniBas), B. Schmid (UZH), L. Turnbull (UZH)  
  • Joint projects with engineers and chemists: B. Nelson (ETHZ), N. Luedtke (UZH)