Development and Evolution of Land Plants

Research focus

Our laboratory uses genetics to discover how plants and their cells develop and evolve. The main focus has been the identification of mechanisms that control the development and differentiation of specialised plant cell types. Using this information, we formulate testable hypotheses for how these mechanisms evolved during Earth history. Our current activity falls into three overlapping research areas:

Evolution of development: We use a combination of genetics and palaeontology to identify patterns in plant evolution and defining the molecular mechanisms that controlled the formation of land plant bodies soon after the colonisation of the land sometime around 500 million years ago. This research has identified the molecular mechanism that controlled the formation of the rooting structures that evolved among the first land plants that existed in the Ordovician Period.

De-novo polarity formation: We use a combination of genetics and imaging to define the mechanisms by which cells polarise from a non-polar state during the course of development. This programme focusses on the transformation of the apolar spore to a polarised cell which then undergoes a series of polarity-directed developmental decisions to form a mature plant.

Innovation: Our research to understand the evolution of developmental mechanisms of plant cells requires the development of new technologies. These technologies can be applied to other challenges in biology, medicine and agriculture. We bundled a set of enabling technologies into a spin-out company which develops crop protection products for agriculture. We continue to make use of our new knowledge to develop technologies that reduce the environmental impact of food production and improve human health.


News from the Dolan Lab


Selected Publications

Attrill ST and Dolan L (2024) KATANIN-mediated microtubule severing is required for MTOC formation and function in Marchantia polymorpha. Development 151(20):dev202672 preprint bioRxiv:2024.01.04.574198.

Attrill ST and Dolan L (2024) Microtubules and actin filaments direct nuclear movement during the polarisation of Marchantia spore cells. bioRxiv:2024.02.23.581750.

Mulvey H and Dolan L (2023) RHO of plant signaling was established early in streptophyte evolution. Curr Biol 33(24):5515-25.

Hisanaga T, Romani F, Wu S, et al. (2023) The Polycomb repressive complex 2 deposits H3K27me3 and represses transposable elements in a broad range of eukaryotes. Curr Biol 33(20):4367-80 preprint bioRxiv:2022.10.24.513474.

Mulvey H and Dolan L (2023) ROP GTPase of plants regulates polarized cell growth and cell division orientation during morphogenesis. Curr Biol 33(14):2897-911 preprint bioRxiv:2023.05.23.541913.

Streubel S, Deiber S, Roetzer J, et al. (2023) Meristem dormancy in a dichotomous branching system is regulated by a liverwort-specific miRNA and a clade III SPL gene in Marchantia polymorpha. Curr Biol 33(4):660-74 preprint bioRxiv:2022.10.03.510622.


Group members

Group Leader

Senior Postdoc


Research Assistant

Interns and Master Students

Visiting Scientist