DSundell 1920x1080
[2017-05-18] David Sundell has developed novel interactive web tools that can visualize and perform statistical analysis of gene expression data based on two high-spatial resolution datasets of wood development. One tool that can compare expression between species may help identify genes with conserved biological function. David Sundell will defend his thesis at Umeå University today.

David Sundell has analysed two high-spatial resolution datasets profiling wood development from the angiosperm tree aspen (Populus tremula) and from the conifer species Norway spruce (Picea abies). For each of the datasets he developed a web resource (AspWood och NorWood ) including tools for the exploration of gene expression, co-expression and functional enrichment of gene sets.

One developed resource (ComPlEx) allows interactive, comparative co-expression analysis between species to identify conserved and diverged co-expression modules. These tools make it possible to identifying conserved regulatory modules that can focus downstream research and provide biologists with a resource to identify regulatory genes for targeted trait improvement.

 “The goal was to provide a platform (PlantGenIE) where scientists can investigate the processes underlying wood formation including comparative analysis between species”, says David Sundell. “My research has resulted in a set of powerful resources for identifying genes controlling wood development and the functional properties of wood. This probably allows to develop new varieties with increased biomass or optimal properties for downstream uses such as bioenergy uses in a more targeted way.”

Research on wood development conducted in conifer tree species is limited. The majority of research has been conducted in model angiosperm species such as Arabidopsis thaliana. Using model organisms such as aspen and Norway spruce is possible due to the fact that all living organisms derive from a common ancestor. This means that a gene that exists in two species had the same function at the time of divergence from their last common ancestor. Throughout evolution, the function of the two gene copies may diverge, but a signature of the shared ancestry remains in the DNA sequence of the two gene copies.

The identification of such orthologous genes and of the regulatory pathways controlling those genes by comparing sequences similarities from angiosperms and gymnosperms is limited due to the large evolutionary distance between these two plant groups. The have diverged hundreds of millions of years ago. At such large evolutionary distances additional information, such as gene expression data, is required for functional annotation.

Lignocellulose from plants is the most abundant source of terrestrial biomass and is one of the energy sources that can potentially replace fossil fuels. For a country such as Sweden, where the forest industry accounts for 10% of total economic export, increased plant biomass yields would not only be beneficial for the environment, but also for the economy of the country.

About the defence:

Thursday, the 18th of May, David Sundell, Department of Plant Physiology, Umeå University, will defend his thesis with the title: Novel resources enabling comparative regulomics in forst tree species. Swedish titel: Nya verktyg för komparativ regulomik i skogsträd.

The public defence will be in Lilla hörsalen KB3A9, KBC-huset.

Faculty opponent is Professor Klaas Vandepoele, VIB/Ghent University, Belgium.

For more information, please contact:

David Sundell, 
Phone: +46705943742
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Text: David Sundell