Professor Joanna Jean Putterill

PhD University of Auckland

Research | Current

  • Gene editing in the model legume Medicago and in kiwifruit
  • Kiwifruit flowering and architecture regulation
  • Epigenetic control of flowering time in  Medicago truncatula 
  • Reverse genetics to study candidate flowering time genes in Medicago

Putterill Flowering lab

We use molecular genetics to study the regulation of the time to flowering in plants using molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, gene transfer and gene editing techniques in the lab.

The timing of flowering to favourable seasons of the year is crucial for reproductive success in plants and there is commercial interest in breeding varieties with customized flowering.

We are particularly interested in how external cues such as day length, light quality and winter cold regulate flowering. We use Arabidopsis, a model experimental plant that is the focus of a large international research effort and another reference plant, the legume Medicago truncatula, in order to discover new mechanisms for flowering control and test how well the flowering network is conserved between species.

We are also developing tools for repressing and inducing flowering and are involved in projects on accelerating kiwifruit and kiwiberry flowering for rapid breeding with Plant and Food Research (PFR). 

Regulation of flowering in Medicago truncatula

Some temperate-climate plants like Arabidopsis and Medicago  use the major cues of winter cold (vernalisation) and day length to regulate flowering.  They need a prolonged exposure to cold temperatures (1- 10C for up to 12 weeks depending on the plant) - before they can flower. This important adaptation prevents flowering until they have over-wintered and spring and long days have arrived bringing conditions that are optimal for subsequent seed production.

The molecular mechanisms of photoperiod and vernalisation are best understood in Arabidopsis (see flowering pathways above). Recently, there also has been excellent progress in monocot plants, including the cereals wheat and barley. However, the molecular mechanisms of photoperiodic control vernalisation differ between Arabidopsis and cereals. This raises the interesting and important question of how vernalisation operates in other eudicots.

We are studying this in Marsden and University-funded projects using  Medicago truncatula. Medicago  has many useful genomic resources, but relatively little is known about the genetic control of flowering in this legume. Interestingly two key regulators of flowering known from Arabidopsis, FLC and CO, are missing from Medicago, suggesting that Medicago has evoloved new mechanisms torespond to day length and winter cold. We are mainly using reverse genetics with mutant collections of Medicago to develop a model of control of flowering in this legume. Ultimately, this work will contribute to breeding of crop plants that are better adapted to their geographical location and climate.

Please contact us if you are interested in working in The Flowering Lab at


Teaching | Current

BioSci 326 Plant Biotechnology for crops and health

BioSci 351 Molecular Genetics

BioSci 754 Plant genomes and gene expression

Postgraduate supervision


The Putterill Flowering Lab 2021

  • Dr Angel Peng (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Matthew Mayo Smith (PhD student)
  • Fang -Fei Tham (Honours student)
  • Min Zhao (MSc completed, now Research Assistant)
  • Alex Nguyen (Science scholar, now Honours student based at  based at Plant and Food Research, PFR)
  • Dr Bo Yang (Postdoctoral Fellow based at PFR)
  • Dinum Herath (PhD student  based at PFR)
  • Luke Luo (PhD student based at PFR)
  • Will Barrett (PhD student based at PFR)
  • Rushada Chunekar (MSc student based at PFR)



Director Joint Graduate School in Plant and Food Science

Areas of expertise

Plant Molecular Science

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Herath, D., Wang, T., Peng, Y., Allan, A. C., Putterill, J., & Varkonyi-Gasic, E. (2020). An improved method for transformation ofActinidia argutautilized to demonstrate a central role forMYB110in regulating anthocyanin accumulation in kiwiberry. PLANT CELL TISSUE AND ORGAN CULTURE10.1007/s11240-020-01915-1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Allan
  • Jaudal, M., Wen, J., Mysore, K. S., & Putterill, J. (2020). Medicago PHYA promotes flowering, primary stem elongation and expression of flowering time genes in long days. BMC plant biology, 20 (1)10.1186/s12870-020-02540-y
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal
  • Plunkett, B. J., Henry-Kirk, R., Friend, A., Diack, R., Helbig, S., Mouhu, K., ... Putterill, J. (2019). Apple B-box factors regulate light-responsive anthocyanin biosynthesis genes. Scientific reports, 9 (1)10.1038/s41598-019-54166-2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Allan
  • Dong, Y., Gupta, S., Sievers, R., Wargent, J. J., Wheeler, D., Putterill, J., ... Dijkwel, P. P. (2019). Genome draft of the Arabidopsis relative Pachycladon cheesemanii reveals novel strategies to tolerate New Zealand's high ultraviolet B radiation environment. BMC genomics, 20 (1)10.1186/s12864-019-6084-4
  • Zhang, L., Jiang, A., Thomson, G., Kerr-Phillips, M., Phan, C., Krueger, T., ... Putterill, J. (2019). Overexpression of Medicago MtCDFd1_1 Causes Delayed Flowering in Medicago via Repression of MtFTa1 but Not MtCO-Like Genes. FRONTIERS IN PLANT SCIENCE, 1010.3389/fpls.2019.01148
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal
  • Thomson, G., Taylor, J., & Putterill, J. (2019). The transcriptomic response to a short day to long day shift in leaves of the reference legume Medicago truncatula. PEERJ, 710.7717/peerj.6626
  • Jaudal, M., Thomson, G., Zhang, L., Che, C., Wen, J., Mysore, K. S., ... Putterill, J. (2019). Forward and reverse screens to identify genes that control vernalization and flowering time in Medicago truncatula. In F. J. de Bruijn (Ed.) The model legume Medicago truncatula (pp. 189-196). New York, USA: Wiley/Blackwell. 10.1002/9781119409144.ch23
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal
  • Jaudal, M., Zhang, L., Che, C., Li, G., Tang, Y., Wen, J., ... Putterill, J. (2018). A SOC1-like gene MtSOC1a promotes flowering and primary stem elongation in Medicago. Journal of experimental botany, 69 (20), 4867-4880. 10.1093/jxb/ery284
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal


Contact details

Primary office location

Level 1, Room 129
New Zealand

Web links