Evolutionary Conservation of Regulatory Network Controlling Flower Development”, is a project that aims to strengthen research partnerships through short period staff exchanges and networking activities between European research organisations and organisations from countries with which the Community shares an S&T agreement.
The research topic of this exchange programme concerns plant reproduction. The expanding world population depends on agricultural crops, mainly as cereals and fruits. Improvements of crop plants to achieve better yields under suboptimal growth conditions will be essential to keep up with population growth and reduce the impact of high yield farming on the environment. Most agricultural products, such as seeds and fruits, are derived from the reproductive process of flowering plants. Therefore, crop improvement requires a detailed understanding of flower and fruit development.
Researches on reference species, such as Antirrhinumand Arabidopsis, revealed interconnected regulatory networks based primarily on transcription factors that guide the patterning and growth of flowers and fruits. We will focus on a fundamental, economically important and experimentally tractable biological process, plant reproduction, and we will take advantage of genomic and post-genomic tools to investigate the regulatory network controlling reproductive process. To obtain maximum benefit from a broad comparative analysis, we will focus on a key set of genetic interactions that clearly regulate flower development and cell fate in the reference species, Arabidopsis. In particular, using a comparative approach, we aim to understand how evolutionary variation led to differences and/or similarities in reproductive processes in (crop) species. Detailed analysis of the network of regulatory genes controlling reproductive development in Arabidopsis represents the biological theme around which our training programme will be built. In fact, in Arabidopsis many key genes with important roles during reproduction have already been identified (Espinosa-Soto et al., 2004). Taken advantage of the different scientific competences developed by the partners, it will be possible to expand the knowledge from Arabidopsis to crop species. Furthermore, the overlapping scientific interests will increase synergies between the collaborating groups.
First meeting
The first project meeting was held in Maratea, Italy during a Workshop on Molecular Mechanisms controlling Flower Development. Hotel “VILLA DEL MARE” Acquafredda di Maratea Italy.  14th-17th June 2011, where the participants presented partial reports as short talks. A one-day discussion on future actions was also part of the agenda for the EVOCODE members participating in the Meeting.

Antonio Costa de Oliveira Plant Genomics and Breeding Center (CGF) - UFPel -Brazil
Cristina Ferrandiz Instituto de Biologia  Molecular y Celular de Plantas - Spain
Marcio Alves Ferreira Laboartorio de Genetica Molecular Vegetal (LGMV)-UFRJ- Brazil
Martin Kater Dipartamento di Biologia, UNIMI - Italy
Lucia Colombo Dipartamento di Biologia, UNIMI -Italy (PI)