Dr. Robert G. Franks

Associate Professor

Arabidopsis flower development; gynoecium, seed, ovule, transcriptional regulation, gene regulatory networks, molecular genetics



Research Interests

Reproductive competence of flowering plants requires proper development of the carpel, which is the female reproductive organ of the plant. The meristematic regions along the margin of the developing carpel generate ovules that will later develop into seeds. These meristematic regions have been termed carpel margin meristems (CMMs) and are functionally analogous to the mammalian ovary and placenta. The CMMs provide an excellent system to study basic problems in developmental biology such as patterning, the regulation of cellular proliferation and the control of organ size and shape. Dr. Franks’ research program seeks to clarify basic mechanisms of organ size and shape regulation and understand relationships between patterning cues and cellular proliferation within the carpel. Current research focuses on (1) the molecular mechanisms that support the synergistic genetic interaction between seuss and aintegumenta mutants during CMM development; 2) the direct downstream targets of SEUSS regulation within the carpel; 3) the elucidation of the transcriptional gene regulatory network that controls ovule initiation and meristematic competence in the carpel; 4) the identification and functional studies of novel genes that play a critical role in CMM development; 5) the application of fluorescent activated cell sorting (FACS) technology to isolate transcriptionally-distinct populations of carpel cell types.


Selected Publications

  • Sehra, B and Franks, R.G. (2015) Auxin and cytokinin act during gynoecial patterning and the development of ovules from the meristematic medial domain. WIREs Dev Bio. (2015) PMID:25951007.
  • Wynn A.N., Seaman A. A., Jones A.L., Franks R.G. (2014) Novel functional roles for PERIANTHIA and SEUSS during floral organ identity specification, floral meristem termination and gynoecial development. Frontiers in Plant Science. Vol 5, No. 00130.
  • Larsson, E., Roberts, C.J., Claes, A.R., Franks, R.G., Sundberg, E., 2014. Polar Auxin Transport is Essential for Medial versus Lateral Tissue Specification and Vascular-mediated Valve Outgrowth in Arabidopsis Gynoecia. Plant Physiol. 166, pp. 1998–2012
  • Lee BH, Wynn AN, Franks RG, Hwang YS, Lim J, Kim JH. (2013). The Arabidopsis thaliana GRF-INTERACTING FACTOR gene family plays an essential role in control of male and female reproductive development. Dev Biol. Dec 16. pii: S0012-1606(13)00654-4
  • Wynn, A.N., Rueschhoff, E.E. and Franks, R.G. (2011), Transcriptomic Characterization of a Synergistic Genetic Interaction during Carpel Margin Meristem Development in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26231. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026231
  • Nole-Wilson, S., Rueschhoff, E.E., Bhatti, H., and Franks, R.G. (2010). Synergistic disruptions in seuss cyp85A2 double mutants reveal a role for brassinolide synthesis during gynoecium and ovule development. BMC Plant Biol 10, 198.
  • Nole-Wilson, S., Azhakanandam, S., and Franks, R.G. (2010). Polar auxin transport together with AINTEGUMENTA and REVOLUTA coordinate early Arabidopsis gynoecium development. Dev Biol 346, 181-195.
  • Bao, F., Azhakanandam, S. and Franks, R.G. (2010) SEUSS and SEUSS-LIKE transcriptional adaptors regulate floral and embryonic development in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 152 (2) pp821-836.
  • Azhakanandam, S., Nole-Wilson, S., Bao, F., and Franks, R.G. (2008). SEUSS and AINTEGUMENTA Mediate Patterning and Ovule Initiation during Gynoecium Medial Domain Development. Plant Physiology 146 (3) p1165-1181.
  • Franks, R. G., Wang, C., Levin, J. Z., and Liu, Z. (2002) SEUSS, a Member of a Novel Family of Plant Regulatory Proteins, Represses Floral Homeotic Gene Expression with LEUNIG. Development (129, 253-263)
  • Liu, Z., Franks, R. G. and Klink, V. P. (2000) Regulation of Gynoecium Marginal Tissue Formation by LEUNIG and AINTEGUMETA. Plant Cell 12: 1879-1891.