Associate Professor (Docent)
Department of Plant Biology
Box 7080
75007 Uppsala
Jens Sundström

Genetic regulation of plant reproductive development

Regulation of male reproductive development through chromosomal clusters of co-expressed genes in Arabidopsis

In plants, epigenetics have predominantly been associated with regulation of single genes, often in response to environmental cues. I have, in collaboration with Dr Olof Emanuelsson at KTH, performed a bioinformatics study using available global expression data on floral organ development in the model species Arabidopsis. This study shows that many of the genes that are active specifically in stamens, are situated in small chromosomal clusters on the Arabidopsis chromosomes. Clustering of floral organ specific genes is a novel finding implying an epigenetic regulation of a substantial part of the genetic program regulating stamen development.
The long-term goal of this project is to understand the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate growth and development in an organism. To reach this we aim to develop models for how epigenetic regulation of gene activity is achieved and experimentally verify those models.

Early cone setting in Norway spruce

Early cone setting spruce, photo J.Sundstrom

Early cone setting spruce, photo J.Sundstrom

Our conifer trees go trough a long juvenile period before they start to set cones and reproduce. For Norway spruce the juvenile period is 20-25 year. This imply that cone setting is a bottle-neck which make it impossible to practice breeding in conifers in a reasonable time frame with respect to genetic gain and biodiversity. To make conifer breeding more efficient and to ensure an even supply of seeds, the forest industry needs to find new means of controlling cone setting in conifers. I have from a naturally occurring Norway spruce-mutant produced plantlets that initiate cones already in their second year. When grown under accelerated growth conditions these plants produce cones within one year after seed germination.

A long-term goal for this project is to incorporate these early cone-setting clones in the ongoing Norway spruce breeding programs. In collaboration with Dr. Curt Almqvist at Skogforsk, I plan to use these clones as non-transgenic rootstocks to promote early and regular cone setting in selected grafts.


Dixelius C, Fagerström T, Sundström JF.  European agricultural policy goes down the tubers. Nat Biotechnol. 2012 Jun 7;30(6):492-3. doi: 10.1038/nbt.2255.

Fagerström T, Dixelius C, Magnusson U, & Sundström JF Stop worrying; start growing Risk research on GM crops is a dead parrot: it is time to start reaping the benefits of GM EMBO reports (2012) 13, 493 – 497 doi:10.1038/embor.2012.59

Karlgren, A., Carlsson, J., Gyllenstrand, N., Lagercrantz, U., & Sundström, J. F. (2009). Non-radioactive in situ hybridization protocol applicable for Norway spruce and a range of plant species. Journal of visualized experiments JoVE. Available at:

Sundström, J. F., Vaculova, A., Smertenko, A. P., Savenkov, E. I., Golovko, A., Minina, E., Tiwari, B. S., et al. (2009). Tudor staphylococcal nuclease is an evolutionarily conserved component of the programmed cell death degradome. Nature Cell Biology, 11(11), 1347-1354.

Sundström, J. F., Nakayama, N., Glimelius, K., & Irish, V. F. (2006). Direct regulation of the floral homeotic APETALA1 gene by APETALA3 and PISTILLATA in Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal, 46(4), 593-600.

Sundström, J., & Engström, P. (2002). Conifer reproductive development involves B-type MADS-box genes with distinct and different activities in male organ primordia. Plant Journa, 31(2), 161-169.