Prof. Miltos Tsiantis D. Phil
Professor of Plant Developmental Genetics

Wadham College


Tel  +44 (0)1865 275112

Last Modified: April 2014

Prof. MS Tsiantis

Research Area

Comparative analysis of leaf development programmes

Research Description

We are interested in understanding the basis for the generation of different organismal forms. Angiosperm leaves offer an attractive opportunity to study morphological evolution as they demonstrate an enormous degree of phenotypic diversity. To study this problem we employ molecular genetic and comparative development approaches in plants with divergent leaf forms. Our aim is twofold, first to build a concrete picture of the genetic networks operating to sculpt angiosperm shoot form and second to understand how these networks are modified through evolution to result in the multitude of distinct leaf forms apparent in nature.

Systems of choice and approaches

To facilitate an in-depth and unbiased understanding of how the balance of conservation versus divergence of shoot development programmes results in morphological diversity of leaves, we developed the Arabidopsis thaliana relative Cardamine hirsuta into a model system for comparative development. Because C. hirsutais amenable to both forward and reverse genetics approaches, comparative studies between these two species greatly enrich our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms driving evolution of development. We hope that this approach, combined with phylogenetically informed studies across seed plants, will help understand what specific changes in gene regulatory networks underlie the evolution of plant form.

In order to enrich these comparative development projects, we are also interested in understanding the fundamental genetic pathways that control cell fate acquisition in plants. To this end, we have studied the delimitation of meristem and lateral organ domains at key stages of the plant life cycle. This work involves investigating the regulation and function of homedomain proteins of the HD-ZIP III and KNOTTED1-like classes.

Current projects

There are three interrelated areas of research in the lab:

  1. Development and genetics of leaf development in C. hirsuta
  2. Comparative analysis of seed plant leaves.
  3. Characterization of the developmental pathways defined by KNOTTED1-like and PHABULOSA homedomain proteins in A. thaliana

Graduate Programme

The lab participates in an interdisciplinary BBSRC funded D. Phil. programme in Genomes, Development and Evolution, run jointly by the Department of Zoology, Department of Plant Sciences and the Dunn School of Pathology. For more details see:


In spring 2010 the lab was awarded a prestigious HFSP programme grant to study evolution and diversity of leaf shape in an interdisciplinary project combining developmental genetics and computational modeling in collaboration with the lab of Prof. Premyslaw Prusinkiewitz at Calgary.

Tsiantis Group Members

Publications (while at this department)

Bilsborough, GD, Runions, A, Barkoulas, M, Jenkins, HW, Hasson, A, Galinha, C, Laufs, P, Hay, A, Prusinkiewicz, P, Tsiantis, M. (2011) Model for the regulation of Arabidopsis thaliana leaf margin development PNAS. 108 (8): pp 3424-3429.

Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2010) KNOX genes: Versatile regulators of plant development and diversity Development. 137 (19): pp 3153-3165.

Piazza, P, Bailey, C.D, Cartolano, M, Krieger, J, Cao, J, Ossowski, S, Schneeberger, K, He, F, De, Meaux J, Hall, N, MacLeod, N, Filatov, D, Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2010) Arabidopsis thaliana leaf form evolved via loss of KNOX expression in leaves in association with a selective sweep Current Biology. 20 (24): pp 2223-2228.

Scarpella, E, Barkoulas, M, Tsiantis, M. (2010) Control of leaf and vein development by auxin. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology. 2 (1):.

Canales, C, Barkoulas, M, Galinha, C, Tsiantis, M. (2009) Weeds of change: Cardamine hirsuta as a new model system for studying dissected leaf development Journal of Plant Research. 123 (1): pp 25-33.

Galinha, C, Bilsborough, G, Tsiantis, M. (2009) Hormonal input in plant meristems: A balancing act Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology. 20 (9): pp 1149-1156.

Grigg, S.P, Galinha, C, Kornet, N, Canales, C, Scheres, B, Tsiantis, M. (2009) Repression of Apical Homeobox Genes Is Required for Embryonic Root Development in Arabidopsis Current Biology. 19 (17): pp 1485-1490.

Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2009) A KNOX family TALE Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 12 (5): pp 593-598.

Barkoulas, M, Hay, A, Kougioumoutzi, E, Tsiantis, M. (2008) A developmental framework for dissected leaf formation in the Arabidopsis relative Cardamine hirsuta Nature Genetics..

Blein, T, Pulido, A, Vialette-Guiraud, A, Nikovics, K, Morin, H, Hay, A, Johansen, I.E, Tsiantis, M, Laufs, P. (2008) A conserved molecular framework for compound leaf development Science. 322 (5909): pp 1835-1839.

Jasinski, S, Tattersall, A, Piazza, P, Hay, A, Martinez-Garcia, J.F, Schmitz, G, Theres, K, McCormick, S, Tsiantis, M. (2008) PROCERA encodes a DELLA protein that mediates control of dissected leaf form in tomato The Plant Journal. 56 (4): pp 603-612.

Barkoulas, M, Galinha, C, Grigg, S.P, Tsiantis, M. (2007) From genes to shape: regulatory interactions in leaf development Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 10 (6): pp 660-666.

Jasinski, S, Kaur, H, Tattersall, A, Tsiantis, M. (2007) Negative regulation of KNOX expression in tomato leaves Planta. 226 (5): pp 1255-1263.

Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2006) The genetic basis for differences in leaf form between Arabidopsis thaliana and its wild relative Cardamine hirsuta Nature Genetics. 38 (8): pp 942-947.

Hay, A, Barkoulas, M, Tsiantis, M. (2006) ASYMMETRIC LEAVES1 and auxin activities converge to repress BREVIPEDICELLUS expression and promote leaf development in Arabidopsis Development. 133 (20): pp 3955-3961.

Tsiantis, M. (2006) Plant development: Multiple strategies for breaking seed dormancy Current Biology. 16 (1):.

Canales, C, Grigg, S, Tsiantis, M. (2005) The formation and patterning of leaves: Recent advances Planta. 221 (6): pp 752-756.

Craft, J, Samalova, M, Baroux, C, Townley, H, Martinez, A, Jepson, I, Tsiantis, M, Moore, I. (2005) New pOp/LhG4 vectors for stringent glucocorticoid-dependent transgene expression in Arabidopsis Plant Journal. 41 (6): pp 899-918.

Grigg, S.P, Canales, C, Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2005) SERRATE coordinates shoot meristem function and leaf axial patterning in Arabidopsis Nature. 437 (7061): pp 1022-1026.

Hay, A, Tsiantis, M. (2005) From genes to plants via meristems Development. 132 (12): pp 2679-2684.

Jasinski, S, Piazza, P, Craft, J, Hay, A, Woolley, L, Rieu, I, Phillips, A, Hedden, P, Tsiantis, M. (2005) KNOX action in Arabidopsis is mediated by coordinate regulation of cytokinin and gibberellin activities Current Biology. 15 (17): pp 1560-1565.

Piazza, P, Jasinski, S, Tsiantis, M. (2005) Evolution of leaf developmental mechanisms New Phytologist. 167 (3): pp 693-710.

Hay, A, Barkoulas, M, Tsiantis, M. (2004) PINning down the connections: Transcription factors and hormones in leaf morphogenesis Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 7 (5): pp 575-581.

Hay, A, Craft, J, Tsiantis, M. (2004) Plant hormones and homeoboxes: Bridging the gap? BioEssays. 26 (4): pp 395-404

Tsiantis, M, Hay, A. (2003) Comparative plant development: The time of the leaf? Nature Reviews Genetics. 4 (3): pp 169-180.

Hay, A, Kaur, H, Phillips, A, Hedden, P, Hake, S, Tsiantis, M. (2002) The gibberellin pathway mediates KNOTTED1-type homeobox function in plants with different body plans Current Biology. 12 (18): pp 1557-1565.

Tsiantis, M. (2001) Control of shoot cell fate: Beyond homeoboxes Plant Cell. 13 (4): pp 733-738.

Tsiantis, M, Schneeberger, R, Golz, J.F, Freeling, M, Langdale, J.A. (1999) The maize rough sheath2 gene and leaf development programs in monocot and dicot plants Science. 284 (5411): pp 154-156.

Tsiantis, M, Brown, M.I.N, Skibinski, G, Langdale, J.A. (1999) Disruption of auxin transport is associated with aberrant leaf development in maize Plant Physiology. 121 (4): pp 1163-1168

Schneeberger, R, Tsiantis, M, Freeling, M, Langdale, J.A. (1998) The rough sheath2 gene negatively regulates homeobox gene expression during maize leaf development Development. 125 (15): pp 2857-2865

Tsiantis, M, Langdale, J.A. (1998) The formation of leaves Current Opinion in Plant Biology. 1 (1): pp 43-48

Tsiantis, M.S, Bartholomew, D.M, Smith, J.A.C. (1996) Salt regulation of transcript levels for the c subunit of a leaf vacuolar H+-ATPase in the halophyte Mesembryanthemum crystallinum Plant Journal. 9 (5): pp 729-736


We receive funding from the BBSRC, Royal Society, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the EU


Donovan Bailey, University of New Mexico
Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, University of Calgary