Department of Environmental Life Sciences
Division of Genetic Ecology

Plant Reproductive Genetics 分野

Sexual reproduction in higher plants is important for producing the next generation while at the same time eliminating harmful genes, increasing genetic diversity, and preserving the species. In the process in which the reproductive organs are formed, differentiated, and develop, pistils, stamens, and gametes differentiate through cell-cell communication. Furthermore, the pollen adhering to papilla cells of the stigma surface lead to fertilization after an intercellular recognition reaction in the pistil between and within species. Understanding this reproductive process in plants at the molecular level can not only clarify the mechanisms by which a plant distinguishes between self and non-self such as self-incompatibility, which is characterized as a model of cell-cell communication, but also can contribute to improvements in the production of seeds and fruits as a result of fertilization.

Various factors in plant reproduction processes have been isolated via recent advances in molecular biology, molecular genetics, and high speed genome analysis technology, and their commonalities are being revealed. At the Laboratory of Plant Reproductive Genetics, we have been making global contributions to the identification and characterization of male and female S determinants in Brassica self-incompatibility, which are the model of pollen-stigma interaction and cell-cell communication in higher plants. Our aim is the dissection and understanding of the molecular mechanisms of plant reproductive trait controlling factors (morphogenesis, cell-cell communication, pollen-stigma interaction, etc.).


Reproductive traits in plants encompass wide research fields, including flower bud formation, flower organ maturation, pollen-stigma interaction, pollen tube growth, and fertilization. Our laboratory is advancing research into the genetic traits of the reproductive process that lead from flower organ formation to fertilization at the molecular level using the flowers of plants such as the Brassicaceae, Poaceae, Liliaceae, and Orchidaceae. We also frequently use Arabidopsis thaliana as it has a short life cycle, Brassica species, and rice, a global grain crop.

As flowers are, in one sense, the final stage of a plant, carefully raising plants until they flower is an important part of experiments. Of course, the ultimate of objective of this laboratory is not only to raise plants and observe flowers, but also to reveal the molecular mechanisms of reproductive processes in higher plants using genetic and molecular biological techniques.

Some examples of the achievements of this laboratory include receiving 10 domestic awards (the 7th JSPS Prize, the 11th Nikkei Business Publications Technology Award Grand Prize, the 2013 Commendation for Science and Technology by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, etc.) in connection with our analysis of self-incompatibility in Brassica species and reproductive organ-specific genes in higher plants. These studies have also been published in famous journals such as Nature, Nature Genetics, Science, PNAS, and Plant Cell. As you can see, we are world leaders in the analysis of reproductive traits in higher plants, in particular in the field of self-incompatibility in Brassica species.


Laboratory website:


Professor Masao Watanabe
  • Dissection of molecular mechanism of self-incompatibility in Brassica species
  • Dissection of molecular mechanism of epigenetic control under the reproductive processes of higher plants
  • Comprehensive analysis of pollen and stigma factors governing the pollen-pistil interaction in higher plants.
Associate Professor Akira Kanno
  • Molecular mechanism of sex differentiation in the dioecious plant asparagus.
  • Molecular mechanism of floral organ development in Liliaceae and Orchidaceae plants.

Awards Granted to Graduate Students

Name Award
Masa-aki Osaka 122nd Japan Society of Breeding Lecturer Excellence Prize
Masa-aki Osaka 20th Japan Society of Breeding Chubu Area Colloquium Publication Excellence Prize

Thesis Titles

Master Degree

Functional analysis of miRNA in male reproductive organ in Brachypodium distachyon (2013)

Time-lapse analysis on self and cross-pollination in Brassica species (2013)

Functional analysis of floral B class genes from Muscari armeniacum.(2013)

Ph.D. Degree

Genetic dissection of self-compatible mutants in Brassica species and comprehensive analysis of papilla cell specific genes (2013)

Molecular analysis of pollen development, germination, and pollen tube elongation in Arabidopsis thaliana – as a model case of the genes encoding UGPase and PLIM – (2013)

A Student’s View


Mikako Sone 


Undergraduate University and Department

Faculty of Agriculture, Iwate University

Research Subject

Time-lapse analysis of self- and cross-pollination in Brassica species

Our laboratory is located on the Katahira Campus, and is perfect for accessing the center of downtown Sendai. As materials, plants classified as Brassicaceae and Poaceae are used in Watanabe’s laboratory. In contrast, in Kanno’s laboratory, various dioecious and monocotyledonous plants are used. Many of the students having different backgrounds in the lab are from other Universities, but as both the instructors and senior students provide friendly guidance, even people who have never before engaged in research concerning self-incompatibility and plant sex determination mechanisms can take on the challenge with peace of mind. There are also a lot of collaborative research projects with other research institutions and universities. Of course, depending on your own efforts, you can strive towards high goals and even get the chance to present your research results at academic societies in Japan and around the world. In addition to research activity in this laboratory, we also have a lot of events like sports competitions; it’s a laboratory where you can enjoy a well-rounded graduate student experience!