Updated on 5 March 2013
"Our study provides insights into how land plants evolved two complex generations, strongly supporting one theory put forward at the beginning of last century proposing that the complex diploid body was a novel evolutionary invention," Prof Bowman said.
While Prof Bowman's laboratory in the School of Biological Sciences is focused on basic research exploring the evolution and development of land plants, he said there were possible applications for the results as mutations in the gene cause the plant to skip a generation.
One goal in agriculture is apomixis, where a plant produces seeds clonally by skipping the haploid generation and thereby maintaining the characteristics, such as a high yielding hybrid, of the mother plant. Apomixis would mean crops with desirable qualities could be produced more easily and cheaply.
"Gaining a better understanding of the molecular basis of plant reproduction and the regulations of the alternation of generations could provide tools to engineer apomixis – a breakthrough that would be highly beneficial, especially in developing countries," Prof Bowman said.