Prof. Dr. Michael Lenhard receives Human Frontier Science Program Award

Left- and right-styled flowers of Wachendorfia paniculata. The blue arrows indicate the styles, the orange arrowheads the anthers. Two of the three anthers are bent to the other side than the style. | Credit: Michael Lenhard
Left- and right-styled flowers of Wachendorfia paniculata. The blue arrows indicate the styles, the orange arrowheads the anthers. Two of the three anthers are bent to the other side than the style. | Credit: Michael Lenhard
Source: Michael Lenhard
Left- and right-styled flowers of Wachendorfia paniculata. The blue arrows indicate the styles, the orange arrowheads the anthers. Two of the three anthers are bent to the other side than the style
Source: Michael Lenhard
Left- and right-styled flowers of Wachendorfia paniculata. The blue arrows indicate the styles, the orange arrowheads the anthers. Two of the three anthers are bent to the other side than the style

Together with an international team of scientists Prof. Dr. Michael Lenhard from the University of Potsdam was awarded a Research Grant of the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization. Within the next three years Michael Lenhard, who leads the group of Genetics at the Institute for Biochemistry and Biology, will investigate mirror symmetry in flowers together with colleagues from Canada, the Netherlands and South Africa.

The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) funds projects by international teams of scientists who wish to combine their expertise in innovative approaches to address questions related to “Complex mechanisms of living organisms”. The goal of Michael Lenhard’s HFSP project will be to link structural determinants of left-right asymmetry in flowers to ecology and evolution. The project emerged from a university-funded trip of biologists to South Africa for the purpose of initiating cooperation and is based on the collections of the Botanical Garden, where such left-right asymmetric species can be found.

In species showing left-right floral asymmetry, two forms of flowers are found: In one the female style is bent to the left, in the other to the right, and in many cases, the pollen-producing anthers are on the opposite side. While in some species, such as the African Violet, both flower forms occur on the same individual, the team around Michael Lenhard is interested in cases where an individual has only left- or only right-handed flowers, respectively. That is because in these cases the direction of style bending is genetically determined. The question of how a difference in DNA leads to a reproducible directional decision by organs is as yet poorly understood. Moreover, the example of mirror-symmetric flowers provides an opportunity to link the molecular control of left-right asymmetry to direct ecological consequences. In particular, this is thought to be an adaptation that promotes efficient outbreeding between individuals of a species.

HFSP is an international program of research support implemented by the International Human Frontier Science Program Organization based in Strasbourg. Its aims are to promote intercontinental collaboration and training in cutting-edge, interdisciplinary and risky research focused on the life sciences. Research grants are provided for teams of scientists from different countries who wish to combine their expertise in innovative approaches to address questions that could not be answered by individual laboratories.

Website HFSP Awardees: https://www.hfsp.org/awardees/newly-awarded

Photo: Left- and right-styled flowers of Wachendorfia paniculata. The blue arrows indicate the styles, the orange arrowheads the anthers. Two of the three anthers are bent to the other side than the style. Credit: Michael Lenhard

Contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Lenhard, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology
Phone: +49 331 977-5580
E-Mail: mlenharduni-potsdamde

Media information 14-04-2021 / Nr. 024