Associate Professor Mary Byrne

A12 - Macleay Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9114 0978

Website Room 114, A12 - Macleay Building

Research interests

My lab is interested in regulation of plant development and for our studies we use the model species Arabidopsis thaliana. Our research focuses on plant shoots and covers three main areas.

Arabidopsis shoot meristen and mature leaves


Left: Scanning electron micrograph of a vegetative shoot apex showing shoot meristem and young developing leaves. Right: Adaxial and abaxial sides of an Arabidopsis leaf.

Genes that control plant shoot meristems

Plant shoot and root meristems are indeterminate structures that are established in embryogenesis and give rise to the entire body of the plant. The shoot meristem has two functions. A population of undifferentiated stem cells are required to maintain the meristem for further growth. Cells derived from this stem cell population are recruited to form differentiated structures of the plant such as leaves. Gene networks are involved in maintaining the difference between stem cells of the meristem and differentiated cells of lateral organs. We have identified key components of this network and demonstrated negative regulatory interactions between the meristem homeodomain transcription factor class I KNOX genes and the lateral organ Myb domain transcription factor gene ASYMMETRIC LEAVES1 (AS1).

Interactions between AS1 and KNOX genes

Left: Vegetative rosette of Arabidopsis wild type and as1 mutant. Middle: Complementary expression domains of AS1 and the KNOX gene STM. Right: Graphical representation of the shoot apex; AS1 in leaves represses KNOX expression and KNOX in the meristem represses AS1.

Molecular basis of leaf patterning

Leaves initiate on the flanks of the shoot meristem and the mature leaf forms through patterning in three planes. (1) Dorsoventral polarity establishes distinct adaxial (top) and abaxial (bottom) sides of the leaf. (2) Outgrowth of the leaf from the meristem establishes proximodistal polarity, corresponding to the base and tip of the leaf. (3) Growth of the leaf lamina from the central midvein to the margin of the leaf sets up mediolateral polarity. Dorsoventral polarity, or specification of adaxial and abaxial domains, is essential for development of leaf lamina. Likewise, adjacent adaxial and abaxial domains can lead to ectopic leaf lamina. Genes regulating dorsoventral polarity include transcription factor genes and genes involved in production of small RNAs. We have made the surprising discovery that ribosomal protein genes, called PIGGYBACK (PGY) genes, are also required for dorsoventral patterning of the leaf.

as1 pgy leaf phenotype

Left: as1 pgy mutant leaf with ectopic lamina outgrowths on the adaxial side of the main leaf. Right: Scanning electron micrographs of developing ectopic lamina outgrowths in as1 pgy mutant.

The role of ribosomes in plant development

Life is maintained through a central chain of events from DNA to mRNA to proteins. Translation of mRNA into proteins is carried out by the ribosome. In eukaryotes ribosomes are composed of a small and a large subunit, together consisting of 3 RNA molecules and nearly 80 proteins. Although the ribosome is involved in protein synthesis we have found that mutations in ribosomal proteins have discrete developmental phenotypes. How this occurs is currently unknown. However, our work on pgy ribosomal protein mutants is providing information that ribosomal proteins have a greater role in eukaryote development than previously assumed and raises the possibility that a basic cellular housekeeping process has a broader function and is a control point for developmental patterning in plants.

PhD and master's project opportunities

Selected grants

2013

  • The role of the ribosome and translation in plant fertility; Byrne M, Grossniklaus U; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

2012

  • The Role of RPL27a on Gametophyte Devlopment; Byrne M; DVC Research/Bridging Support Grant.

2011

  • Analysis of the RPLQ gene family in arabidopsis thaliana; Byrne M; DVC Research/Bridging Support Grant.

2010

  • The role of the ribosome in plant development; Byrne M; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (UK)/Research Support.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Zsogon, A., Szakonyi, D., Shi, X., Byrne, M. (2014). Ribosomal Protein RPL27a Promotes Female Gametophyte Development in a Dose-Dependent Manner. Plant Physiology, 165(3), 1133-1143. [More Information]
  • Tsukaya, H., Byrne, M., Horiguchi, G., Sugiyama, M., van Lijsebettens, M., Lenhard, M. (2013). How do 'housekeeping' genes control organogenesis? unexpected new findings on the role of housekeeping genes in cell and organ differentiation. Journal of Plant Research, 126(1), 3-15. [More Information]
  • Derbyshire, P., Byrne, M. (2013). MORE SPIKELETS1 is required for spikelet fate in the inflorescence of Brachypodium. Plant Physiology, 161(3), 1291-1302. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2012). Making leaves. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 15(1), 24-30. [More Information]
  • Moschopoulos, A., Derbyshire, P., Byrne, M. (2012). The Arabidopsis organelle-localized glycyl-tRNA synthetase encoded by EMBRYO DEFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT1 is required for organ patterning. Journal of Experimental Botany, 63(14), 5233-5243. [More Information]
  • Szakonyi, D., Byrne, M. (2011). Involvement of ribosomal protein RPL27a in meristem activity and organ development. Plant Signaling and Behavior, 6(5), 712-714. [More Information]
  • Szakonyi, D., Byrne, M. (2011). Ribosomal protein L27a is required for growth and patterning in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Journal, 65(2), 269-281. [More Information]
  • Vogel, J., Garvin, D., Mockler, T., Schmutz, J., Rokhsar, D., Bevan, M., Barry, K., Lucas, S., Harmon-Smith, M., Lail, K., Byrne, M., et al (2010). Genome sequencing and analysis of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon. Nature, 463(7282 - 11 February 2010), 763-768. [More Information]
  • Szakonyi, D., Moschopoulos, A., Byrne, M. (2010). Perspectives on leaf dorsoventral polarity. Journal of Plant Research, 123(3), 281-290. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2009). A role for the ribosome in development. Trends in Plant Science, 14(9), 512-519. [More Information]
  • Wu, C., You, C., Li, C., Long, T., Chen, G., Byrne, M., Zhang, Q. (2008). RID1, encoding a Cys2/His2-type zinc finger transcription factor, acts as a master switch from vegetative to floral development in rice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America, 105(35), 12915-12920. [More Information]
  • Pinon, V., Etchells, J., Rossignol, P., Collier, S., Arroyo, J., Martienssen, R., Byrne, M. (2008). Three PIGGYBACK genes specifically influencing leaf patterning encode ribosomal proteins. Development (Cambridge), 135, 1315-1324. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2006). Shoot Meristem Function and Leaf Polarity: The Role of Class III HD–ZIP Genes. PLoS Genetics, 2(6), 785-790. [More Information]
  • Garcia, D., Collier, S., Byrne, M., Martienssen, R. (2006). Specification of Leaf Polarity in Arabidopsis via the trans-Acting siRNA Pathway. Current Biology, 16(9), 933-938. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2005). Networks in leaf development. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 8(1), 59-66. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2005). Shoot development – genetic interactions in the meristem. Biochemical Society Transactions, 33(6), 1499-1501. [More Information]

2014

  • Zsogon, A., Szakonyi, D., Shi, X., Byrne, M. (2014). Ribosomal Protein RPL27a Promotes Female Gametophyte Development in a Dose-Dependent Manner. Plant Physiology, 165(3), 1133-1143. [More Information]

2013

  • Tsukaya, H., Byrne, M., Horiguchi, G., Sugiyama, M., van Lijsebettens, M., Lenhard, M. (2013). How do 'housekeeping' genes control organogenesis? unexpected new findings on the role of housekeeping genes in cell and organ differentiation. Journal of Plant Research, 126(1), 3-15. [More Information]
  • Derbyshire, P., Byrne, M. (2013). MORE SPIKELETS1 is required for spikelet fate in the inflorescence of Brachypodium. Plant Physiology, 161(3), 1291-1302. [More Information]

2012

  • Byrne, M. (2012). Making leaves. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 15(1), 24-30. [More Information]
  • Moschopoulos, A., Derbyshire, P., Byrne, M. (2012). The Arabidopsis organelle-localized glycyl-tRNA synthetase encoded by EMBRYO DEFECTIVE DEVELOPMENT1 is required for organ patterning. Journal of Experimental Botany, 63(14), 5233-5243. [More Information]

2011

  • Szakonyi, D., Byrne, M. (2011). Involvement of ribosomal protein RPL27a in meristem activity and organ development. Plant Signaling and Behavior, 6(5), 712-714. [More Information]
  • Szakonyi, D., Byrne, M. (2011). Ribosomal protein L27a is required for growth and patterning in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Journal, 65(2), 269-281. [More Information]

2010

  • Vogel, J., Garvin, D., Mockler, T., Schmutz, J., Rokhsar, D., Bevan, M., Barry, K., Lucas, S., Harmon-Smith, M., Lail, K., Byrne, M., et al (2010). Genome sequencing and analysis of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon. Nature, 463(7282 - 11 February 2010), 763-768. [More Information]
  • Szakonyi, D., Moschopoulos, A., Byrne, M. (2010). Perspectives on leaf dorsoventral polarity. Journal of Plant Research, 123(3), 281-290. [More Information]

2009

  • Byrne, M. (2009). A role for the ribosome in development. Trends in Plant Science, 14(9), 512-519. [More Information]

2008

  • Wu, C., You, C., Li, C., Long, T., Chen, G., Byrne, M., Zhang, Q. (2008). RID1, encoding a Cys2/His2-type zinc finger transcription factor, acts as a master switch from vegetative to floral development in rice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America, 105(35), 12915-12920. [More Information]
  • Pinon, V., Etchells, J., Rossignol, P., Collier, S., Arroyo, J., Martienssen, R., Byrne, M. (2008). Three PIGGYBACK genes specifically influencing leaf patterning encode ribosomal proteins. Development (Cambridge), 135, 1315-1324. [More Information]

2006

  • Byrne, M. (2006). Shoot Meristem Function and Leaf Polarity: The Role of Class III HD–ZIP Genes. PLoS Genetics, 2(6), 785-790. [More Information]
  • Garcia, D., Collier, S., Byrne, M., Martienssen, R. (2006). Specification of Leaf Polarity in Arabidopsis via the trans-Acting siRNA Pathway. Current Biology, 16(9), 933-938. [More Information]

2005

  • Byrne, M. (2005). Networks in leaf development. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 8(1), 59-66. [More Information]
  • Byrne, M. (2005). Shoot development – genetic interactions in the meristem. Biochemical Society Transactions, 33(6), 1499-1501. [More Information]

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