Professor Joanna Jean Putterill

PhD University of Auckland

Research | Current

Putterill Flowering lab

We use molecular genetics to study the regulation of the time to flowering in plants using molecular biology, biochemistry and gene transfer 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 a project on accelerating kiwiberry flowering for rapid breeding with Plant and Food Research. 

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

The Flowering Lab 2017/2018

  • Dr Mau Jaudal (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Lulu Zhang (Technician)
  • Geoffrey Thomson (PhD student)
  • Chong Che (PhD student)
  • Andrew Jiang (Summer student, Intern student)
  • Matthew Mayo Smith (BTech Hons student, Summer student, Technician)
  • Laura Trimborn (Masters thesis student from University of Cologne, Germany)
  • Melanie Zacharias (visiting student intern from Germany)

Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate students

  • Please see above.

Areas of expertise

Plant Molecular Science

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Putterill, J., & Varkonyi-Gasic, E. (2016). FT and florigen long-distance flowering control in plants. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 33, 77-82. 10.1016/j.pbi.2016.06.008
  • Jaudal, M., Zhang, L., Che, C., Hurley, D. G., Thomson, G., Wen, J., ... Putterill, J. (2016). MtVRN2 is a Polycomb VRN2-like gene which represses the transition to flowering in the model legume Medicago truncatula. The Plant Journal, 86 (2), 145-160. 10.1111/tpj.13156
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal, Lulu Zhang
  • Gagic, M., Faville, M., Kardailsky, I., & Putterill, J. (2015). Comparative Genomics and Functional Characterisation of the GIGANTEA Gene from the Temperate Forage Perennial Ryegrass Lolium perenne. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter, 33 (4), 1098-1106. 10.1007/s11105-014-0820-3
  • Jaudal, M., Zhang, L., Che, C., & Putterill, J. (2015). Three Medicago MtFUL genes have distinct and overlapping expression patterns during vegetative and reproductive development and 35S:MtFULb accelerates flowering and causes a terminal flower phenotype in Arabidopsis. Frontiers in Genetics, 6 (50)10.3389/fgene.2015.00050
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal, Lulu Zhang
  • Jaudal, M., Monash, J., Zhang, L., Wen, J., Mysore, K. S., Macknight, R., & Putterill, J. (2014). Overexpression of Medicago SVP genes causes floral defects and delayed flowering in Arabidopsis but only affects floral development in Medicago. J Exp Bot, 65 (2), 429-442. 10.1093/jxb/ert384
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal, Lulu Zhang
  • Jaudal, M., Yeoh, C. C., Zhang, L., Stockum, C., Mysore, K. S., Ratet, P., & Putterill, J. (2013). Retroelement insertions at the Medicago FTa1 locus in spring mutants eliminate vernalisation but not long-day requirements for early flowering. Plant Journal, 76 (4), 580-591. 10.1111/tpj.12315
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal, Lulu Zhang
  • Kim, Y., Han, S., Yeom, M., Kim, H., Lim, J., Cha, J. Y., ... Nam, H. G. (2013). Balanced nucleocytosolic partitioning defines a spatial network to coordinate circadian physiology in plants. Developmental Cell, 26 (1), 73-85. 10.1016/j.devcel.2013.06.006
  • Putterill, J., Zhang, L., Yeoh, C. C., Balcerowicz, M., Jaudal, M., & Varkonyi-Gasic, E. (2013). FT genes and regulation of flowering in the legume Medicago truncatula. Functional Plant Biology, 40 (12), 1199-1207. 10.1071/FP13087
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mauren Jaudal, Lulu Zhang


Contact details

Primary office location

COMMERCE A - Bldg 114
Level 1, Room 116
New Zealand

Web links