Professor Hugh Dickinson

Research interests

The genetics and epigenetic programming of reproductive cell lineages


The epigenetics of plant reproductive cell lineages.

We aim to understand how small RNAs, histone modifications and methylation pathways set up the chromatin ‘landscape’ of the Arabidopsis reproductive cell lineage, and the impact of this landscape on the outcome of meiosis and gametophytic cell specification.  This research, carried out in collaboration with Xiaoqi Feng (John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK), is focused principally on the male reproductive cell lineage in the young anther, but work in collaboration with Lucia Colombo (Milan, Italy) is underway to investigate cell fate determination and meiotic outcome in the developing ovule.

The regulation of pollen development by small RNAs

We are also interested in the role of small RNAs in regulating development of the male gametophyte of Arabidopsis, from the formation of the microspore to the growth of the pollen tube within the female pistil. We have demonstrated that while there are functional commonalities in small RNA behaviour between the sporophyte and gametophyte, a number of microRNAs operate in an unusual fashion to suppress gene activity. Other populations of small RNAs populations have been found to play important and unexpected parts in regulating the final stages of pollen maturity.   

Contact details

+44 (0) 1865 275800

Publications (while at this department)

Nicia E G Junqueira, Bianca Ortiz-Silva, Marcos Vinícius Leal-Costa, Márcio Alves-Ferreira, Hugh G Dickinson, Jane A Langdale & Fernanda Reinert (2018) Anatomy and ultrastructure of embryonic leaves of the C4 species Setaria viridis Annals of Botany, mcx217,

Siefert, F, Thimann, A., Grant-Downton, R., Edelmann, S., Rybka, D., Schrag, T., Frisch, M., Dickinson, H., Melchinger, A. and Scholten, S. (2018) Parental Expression Variation of Small RNAs Is Negatively Correlated with Grain Yield Heterosis in a Maize Breeding Population. Front. Plant Sci., 30 January 2018 |

Marta Adelina Mendes, Rosalinda Fiorella Guerra, Beatrice Castelnovo, Yuriria Silva-Velazquez, Piero Morandini, Silvia Manrique, Nadine Baumann, Rita Groß-Hardt, Hugh Dickinson, Lucia Colombo Development 2016 143: 2780-2790; doi: 10.1242/dev.134916

Dickinson, H.G. (2016) Q &A Current Biology 26: pp R261- 263. doi:

Costa, L.M, Marshall, E, Tesfaye, M, Silverstein, K.A.T, Mori, M, Umetsu, Y, Otterbach, S.L, Papareddy, R, Dickinson, H.G, Boutiller, K, VandenBosch, K.A, Ohki, S, Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F. (2014) Central cell-derived peptides regulate early embryo patterning in flowering plants Science. 344 (6180): pp 168-172.

Dickinson, H, Scholten, S. (2013) And Baby Makes Three: Genomic Imprinting in Plant Embryos PLoS Genetics. 9 (12):. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1003981.

Feng, X, Zilberman, D, Dickinson, H. (2013) A Conversation across Generations: Soma-Germ Cell Crosstalk in Plants Developmental Cell. 24 (3): pp 215-225.

Grant-Downton, R, Kourmpetli, S, Hafidh, S, Khatab, H, Le, Trionnaire G, Dickinson, H, Twell, D. (2013) Artificial microRNAs reveal cell-specific differences in small RNA activity in pollen Current Biology. 23 (14):. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.05.055.

Oh, S.A, Bourdon, V, Dickinson, H.G, Twell, D, Park, S.K. (2013) Arabidopsis Fused kinase TWO-IN-ONE dominantly inhibits male meiotic cytokinesis Plant Reproduction. pp 1-11doi:10.1007/s00497-013-0235-6.

Costa, LilianaM, Yuan, J, Rouster, J, Paul, W, Dickinson, H, Gutierrez-Marcos, JoseF. (2012) Maternal Control of Nutrient Allocation in Plant Seeds by Genomic Imprinting Current Biology.. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.11.059.

Dickinson, H, Costa, L, Gutierrez-Marcos, J. (2012) Epigenetic neofunctionalisation and regulatory gene evolution in grasses Trends in Plant Science..

Etchells, J.P, Moore, L, Jiang, W.Z, Prescott, H, Capper, R, Saunders, N.J, Bhatt, A.M, Dickinson, H.G. (2012) A role for BELLRINGER in cell wall development is supported by loss-of-function phenotypes BMC Plant Biology. 12:. doi:10.1186/1471-2229-12-212.

Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Dickinson, H.G. (2012) Epigenetic reprogramming in plant reproductive lineages Plant and Cell Physiology. 53 (5): pp 817-823.

Rodriguez-Enriquez, M.J, Mehdi, S, Dickinson, H.G, Grant-Downton, R.T. (2012) A novel method for efficient in vitro germination and tube growth of Arabidopsis thaliana pollen New Phytologist.. doi:10.1111/nph.12037.

Le, Trionnaire G, Grant-Downton, R.T, Kourmpetli, S, Dickinson, H.G, Twell, D. (2011) Small RNA activity and function in angiosperm gametophytes Journal of Experimental Botany. 62 (5): pp 1601-1610doi:10.1093/jxb/erq399.

Rodriguez-Enriquez, J, Dickinson, H.G, Grant-Downton, R.T. (2011) MicroRNA misregulation: an overlooked factor generating somaclonal variation? Trends in Plant Sciencedoi:10.1016/j.tplants.2011.03.002.

Feng, X, Dickinson, HG. (2010) Tapetal cell fate, lineage and proliferation in the Arabidopsis anther Development. 137 (14): pp 2409-2416doi:10.1242/dev.049320.

Feng, X, Dickinson, H.G. (2010) Cell-cell Interactions during patterning of the Arabidopsis anther Biochemical Society Transactions. 38 (2): pp 571-576.

Li, N, Dickinson, HG. (2010) Balance between maternal and paternal alleles sets the timing of resource accumulation in the maize endosperm Proc. Roy. Soc. (B) Lond.. 277 (1678): pp 3-10doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.1209.

Dickinson, H.G, Grant-Downton, R.T. (2009) Bridging the generation gap: flowering plant gametophytes and animal germlines reveal unexpected similarities Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 84 (4): pp 589-615doi:10.1111/j.1469-185X.2009.00088.x.

Grant-Downton, R, Hafidh, S, Twell, D, Dickinson, HG. (2009) Small RNA Pathways Are Present and Functional in the Angiosperm Male Gametophyte Molecular Plant. 2 (3): pp 500-512doi:10.1093/mp/ssp003.

Grant-Downton, R, Le Trionnaire, G, Schmid, R, Rodriguez-Enriquez, J, Hafidh, S, Mehdi, S, Twell, D, Dickinson, H. (2009) MicroRNA and tasiRNA diversity in mature pollen of Arabidopsis thaliana BMC Genomics 2009. 10: pp 643doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-643.

Xue, Y, Zhang, Y, Yang, Q, Li, Q, Cheng, Z, Dickinson, HG. (2009) Genetic features of a pollen-part mutation suggest an inhibitory role for the Antirrhinum pollen self-incompatibility determinant Plant Molecular Biology. 70 (5): pp 499-509doi:10.1007/s11103-009-9487-9.

Oh, S-A, Bourdon, V, Das ‘Pal, M, Dickinson, HG, Twell, D. (2008) Arabidopsis Kinesins HINKEL and TETRASPORE Act Redundantly to Control Cell Plate Expansion during Cytokinesis in the Male Gametophyte Molecular Plant. 1 (5): pp 794-799doi:10.1093/mp/ssn/042.

Pennington, PD, Costa, LM, Gutierrez-Marcos, JF, Greenland, AJ, Dickinson, HG. (2008) When genomes collide: aberrant seed development following maize interploidy crosses. Ann Bot (Lond). 101 (6): pp 833-43doi:10.1093/aob/mcn017.

Feng, X, Dickinson, H.G. (2007) Packaging the male germline in plants Trends in Genetics. 23 (10): pp 503-510doi:10.1016/j.tig.2007.08.005.

Grant-Downton, R, Dickinson, H. (2007) Germlines: Argonautes Go Full Cycle Current Biology. 17 (21):. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.09.001.

Gutiérrez-Marcos, JF, Dal, Prà M, Giulini, A, Costa, LM, Gavazzi, G, Cordelier, S, Sellam, O, Tatout, C, Paul, W, Perez, P, Dickinson, HG, Consonni, G. (2007) Empty pericarp4 encodes a mitochondrion-targeted pentatricopeptide repeat protein necessary for seed development and plant growth in maize. Plant Cell. 19 (1): pp 196-210doi:10.1105/tpc.105.039594.

Da, Costa-Nunes J.A, Bhatt, A.M, O'Shea, S, West, C.E, Bray, C.M, Grossniklaus, U, Dickinson, H.G. (2006) Characterization of the three Arabidopsis thaliana RAD21 cohesins reveals differential responses to ionizing radiation Journal of Experimental Botany. 57 (4): pp 971-983doi:10.1093/jxb/erj083.

Grant-Downton, R.T, Dickinson, H.G. (2006) Epigenetics and its implications for plant biology 2. The 'epigenetic epiphany': Epigenetics, evolution and beyond Annals of Botany. 97 (1): pp 11-27 doi:10.1093/aob/mcj001.

Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Costa, L.M, Pra, M.D, Scholten, S, Kranz, E, Perez, P, Dickinson, H.G. (2006) Epigenetic asymmetry of imprinted genes in plant gametes Nature Genetics. 38 (8): pp 876-878.doi:10.1038/ng1828.

Grant-Downton, R.T, Dickinson, H.G. (2005) Epigenetics and its implications for plant biology. 1. The epigenetic network in plants Annals of Botany. 96 (7): pp 1143-1164 doi:10.1093/aob/mci273.

Le, Q, Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Costa, L.M, Meyer, S, Dickinson, H.G, Lorz, H, Kranz, E, Scholten, S. (2005) Construction and screening of subtracted cDNA libraries from limited populations of plant cells: A comparative analysis of gene expression between maize egg cells and central cells Plant Journal. 44 (1): pp 167-178.

Bhatt, A.M, Etchells, J.P, Canales, C, Lagodienko, A, Dickinson, H. (2004) VAAMANA - A BEL1-like homeodomain protein, interacts with KNOX proteins BP and STM and regulates inflorescence stem growth in Arabidopsis Gene. 328: pp 103-111doi:10.1016/j.gene.2003.12.033.

Bhatt, A.M, Zhang, Q, Harris, S.A, White-Cooper, H, Dickinson, H. (2004) Gene structure and molecular analysis of Arabidopsis thaliana ALWAYS EARLY homologs Gene. 336 (2): pp 219-229doi:10.1016/j.gene.2004.03.033.

Costa, L.M, Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Dickinson, H.G. (2004) More than a yolk: The short life and complex times of the plant endosperm Trends in Plant Science. 9 (10): pp 507-514doi:10.1016/j.tplants.2004.08.007.

Grant-Downton, R.T, Dickinson, H.G. (2004) Plants, pairing and phenotypes - Two's company? Trends in Genetics. 20 (4): pp 188-195doi:10.1016/j.tig.2004.02.005.

Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Costa, L.M, Biderre-Petit, C, Khbaya, B, O'Sullivan, D.M, Wormald, M, Perez, P, Dickinson, H.G. (2004) Maternally expressed gene1 is a novel maize endosperm transfer cell-specific gene with a maternal parent-of-origin pattern of expression Plant Cell. 16 (5): pp 1288-1301

Scott, R.J, Spielman, M, Dickinson, H.G. (2004) Stamen structure and function Plant Cell. 16:

Costa, L.M, Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Brutnell, T.P, Greenland, A.J, Dickinson, H.G. (2003) The globby1-1 (glo1-1) mutation disrupts nuclear and cell division in the developing maize seed causing alterations in endosperm cell fate and tissue differentiation Development. 130 (20): pp 5009-5017

Dickinson, H.G, Hiscock, S.J, Crane, P.R. (2003) Mechanisms regulating gene flow in flowering plants: Introduction Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences. 358 (1434): pp 989-990

Dickinson, H. (2003) Plant cell cycle: Cellularisation of the endoderm needs Spätzle Current Biology. 13 (4):. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00078-2.

Gutierrez-Marcos, J.F, Pennington, P.D, Costa, L.M, Dickinson, H.G. (2003) Imprinting in the endosperm: A possible role in preventing wide hybridization Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B Biological Sciences. 358 (1434): pp 1105-1111

Vinkenoog, R, Bushell, C, Spielman, M, Adams, S, Dickinson, H.G, Scott, R.J. (2003) Genomic Imprinting and Endosperm Development in Flowering Plants Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology - Part B Molecular Biotechnology. 25 (2): pp 149-184 doi:10.1385/MB:25:2:149.

Yang, C.-Y, Spielman, M, Coles, J.P, Li, Y, Ghelani, S, Bourdon, V, Brown, R.C, Lemmon, B.E, Scott, R.J, Dickinson, H.G. (2003) TETRASPORE encodes a kinesin required for male meiotic cytokinesis in Arabidopsis Plant Journal. 34 (2): pp 229-240

Canales, C, Bhatt, A.M, Scott, R, Dickinson, H. (2002) EXS, a putative LRR receptor kinase, regulates male germline cell number and tapetal identity and promotes seed development in Arabidopsis Current Biology. 12 (20): pp 1718-1727doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(02)01151-X.

Dickinson, H, Scott, R. (2002) DEMETER, goddess of the harvest, activates maternal MEDEA to produce the perfect seed Molecular Cell. 10 (1): pp 5-7.

Eastmond, P.J, Van, Dijken A.J.H, Spielman, M, Kerr, A, Tissier, A.F, Dickinson, H.G, Jones, J.D.G, Smeekens, S.C, Graham, I.A. (2002) Trehalose-6-phosphate synthase 1, which catalyses the first step in trehalose synthesis, is essential for Arabidopsis embryo maturation Plant Journal. 29 (2): pp 225-235.

Hiscock, S.J, Bown, D, Gurr, S.J, Dickinson, H.G. (2002) Serine esterases are required for pollen tube penetration of the stigma in Brassica Sexual Plant Reproduction. 15 (2): pp 65-74doi:10.1007/s00497-002-0143-7.

Sorensen, A, Guerineau, F, Canales-Holzeis, C, Dickinson, H.G, Scott, R.J. (2002) A novel extinction screen in Arabidopsis thaliana identifies mutant plants defective in early microsporangial development Plant Journal. 29 (5): pp 581-594doi:10.1046/j.0960-7412.2001.01240.x.

Bhatt, A.M, Canales, C, Dickinson, H.G. (2001) Plant meiosis: The means to 1N Trends in Plant Science. 6 (3): pp 114-121doi:10.1016/S1360-1385(00)01861-6.

Spielman, M, Vinkenoog, R, Dickinson, H.G, Scott, R.J. (2001) The epigenetic basis of gender in flowering plants and mammals Trends in Genetics. 17 (12): pp 705-711doi:10.1016/S0168-9525(01)02519-7.

Adams, S, Vinkenoog, R, Spielman, M, Dickinson, H.G, Scott, R.J. (2000) Parent-of-origin effects on seed development in Arabidopsis thaliana require DNA methylation Development. 127 (11): pp 2493-2502

Dickinson, H.G. (2000) Pollen stigma interactions: So near yet so far Trends in Genetics. 16 (9): pp 373-376doi:10.1016/S0168-9525(00)02083-7.

Dickinson, H.G, Elleman, C.J, Doughty, J. (2000) Pollen coatings - Chimaeric genetics and new functions Sexual Plant Reproduction. 12 (5): pp 302-309

Doughty, J, Wong, H.Y, Dickinson, H.G. (2000) Cysteine-rich pollen coat proteins (PCPs) and their interactions with stigmatic S (incompatibility) and S-related proteins in Brassica: Putative roles in SI and pollination Annals of Botany. 85: pp 161-169doi:10.1006/anbo.1999.1031.

Bhatt, A.M, Lister, C, Page, T, Fransz, P, Findlay, K, Jones, G.H, Dickinson, H.G, Dean, C. (1999) The DIF1 gene of Arabidopsis is required for meiotic chromosome segregation and belongs to the REC8/RAD21 cohesin gene family Plant Journal. 19 (4): pp 463-472doi:10.1046/j.1365-313X.1999.00548.x.

De, Dios Alche J, Paul, E, Dickinson, H. (1999) Heterologously expressed polypeptide from the yeast meiotic gene HOP1 binds preferentially to yeast DNA Protein Expression and Purification. 16 (2): pp 251-260doi:10.1006/prep.1999.1052.

Dickinson, H. (1999) No stigma attached to male rejection Science. 286 (5445): pp 1690-1691doi:10.1126/science.286.5445.1690.

Elleman, C.J, Dickinson, H.G. (1999) Commonalities between pollen/stigma and host/pathogen interactions: Calcium accumulation during stigmatic penetration by brassica oleracea pollen tubes Sexual Plant Reproduction. 12 (3): pp 194-202doi:10.1007/s004970050192.

De, Dios Alche J, Dickinson, H. (1998) Affinity chromatographic purification of antibodies to a biotinylated fusion protein expressed in Escherichia coli Protein Expression and Purification. 12 (1): pp 138-143doi:10.1006/prep.1997.0824.

Dickinson, H.G, Doughty, J, Hiscock, S.J, Elleman, C.J, Stephenson, A.G. (1998) Pollen-stigma interactions in Brassica. Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology. 51: pp 51-57

Doughty, J, Dixon, S, Hiscock, S.J, Willis, A.C, Parkin, I.A.P, Dickinson, H.G. (1998) PCP-A1, a defensin-like Brassica pollen coat protein that binds the S locus glycoprotein, is the product of gametophytic gene expression Plant Cell. 10 (8): pp 1333-1347doi:10.1105/tpc.10.8.1333.

Scott, R.J, Spielman, M, Bailey, J, Dickinson, H.G. (1998) Parent-of-origin effects on seed development in Arabidopsis thaliana Development. 125 (17): pp 3329-3341

Scott, R.J, Vinkenoog, R, Spielman, M, Dickinson, H.G. (1998) Medea: Murder or mistrial? Trends in Plant Science. 3 (12): pp 460-461doi:10.1016/S1360-1385(98)01351-X.

Spielman, M, Preuss, D, Li, F.-L, Browne, W.E, Scott, R.J, Dickinson, H.G. (1997) TETRASPORE is required for male meiotic cytokinesis in Arabidopsis thaliana Development. 124 (13): pp 2645-2657

Stephenson, A.G, Doughty, J, Dixon, S, Elleman, C, Hiscock, S, Dickinson, H.G. (1997) The male determinant of self-incompatibility in Brassica oleracea is located in the pollen coating Plant Journal. 12 (6): pp 1351-1359doi:10.1046/j.1365-313x.1997.12061351.x.

 Dickinson, H.G. (1996) Plant signalling comes of age: Identification of self-pollen in Brassica involves a transmembrane receptor kinase Trends in Plant Science. 1 (5): pp 136-138

Elleman, C.J, Dickinson, H.G. (1996) Identification of pollen components regulating pollination-specific responses in the stigmatic papillae of Brassica oleracea New Phytologist. 133 (2): pp 197-205

Hiscock, S.J, Kues, U, Dickinson, H.G. (1996) Molecular mechanisms of self-incompatibility in flowering plants and fungi. Different means to the same end Trends in Cell Biology. 6 (11): pp 421-428.doi:10.1016/S0962-8924(96)10037-4.

Stanchev, B.S, Doughty, J, Scutt, C.P, Dickinson, H, Croy, R.R.D. (1996) Cloning of PCP1, a member of a family of pollen coat protein (PCP) genes from Brassica oleracea encoding novel cysteine-rich proteins involved in pollen-stigma interactions Plant Journal. 10 (2): pp 303-313doi:10.1046/j.1365-313X.1996.10020303.x.

Xue, Y, Carpenter, R, Dickinson, H.G, Coen, E.S. (1996) Origin of allelic diversity in antirrhinum S locus RNases Plant Cell. 8 (5): pp 805-814

Charlton, W.L, Keen, C.L, Merriman, C, Lynch, P, Greenland, A.J, Dickinson, H.G. (1995) Endosperm development in Zea mays; implication of gametic imprinting and paternal excess in regulation of transfer layer development Development. 121 (9): pp 3089-3097

Dickinson, H. (1995) Dry stigmas, water and self-incompatibility in Brassica Sexual Plant Reproduction. 8 (1): pp 1-10

Hiscock, S.J, Doughty, J, Dickinson, H.G. (1995) Synthesis and phosphorylation of pollen proteins during the pollen-stigma interaction in self-compatible Brassica napus L. and self-incompatible Brassica oleracea L. Sexual Plant Reproduction. 8 (6): pp 345-353doi:10.1007/BF00243202.

Hiscock, S.J, Doughty, J, Willis, A.C, Dickinson, H.G. (1995) A 7-kDa pollen coating-borne peptide from Brassica napus interacts with S-locus glycoprotein and S-locus-related glycoprotein Planta. 196 (2): pp 367-374

Dickinson, H. (1994) Simply a social disease? Nature. 367 (6463): pp 517-518doi:10.1038/367517a0.

Dickinson, H.G. (1994) The regulation of alternation of generation in flowering plants Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. 69 (3): pp 419-442

Hiscock, S.J, Dewey, F.M, Coleman, J.O.D, Dickinson, H.G. (1994) Identification and localization of an active cutinase in the pollen of Brassica napus L. Planta. 193 (3): pp 377-384

Dickinson, H. (1993) Pollen dressed for success Nature. 364 (6438): pp 573-574

Doughty, J, Hedderson, F, McCubbin, A, Dickinson, H. (1993) Interaction between a coating-borne peptide of the Brassica pollen grain and stigmatic S (self-incompatibility)-locus-specific glycoproteins Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 90 (2): pp 467-471.

Hiscock, S.J, Dickinson, H.G. (1993) Unilateral incompatibility within the brassicaceae: further evidence for the involvement of the self-incompatibility (S)-locus Theoretical and Applied Genetics. 86 (6): pp 744-753doi:10.1007/BF00222665.

Baldwin, T.C, Coen, E.S, Dickinson, H.G. (1992) The ptl1 gene expressed in the transmitting tissue of Antirrhinum encodes an extensin-like protein Plant Journal. 2 (5): pp 733-739

Dickinson, H.G, Crabbe, M.J.C, Gaude, T. (1992) Sporophytic self-incompatibility systems: S gene products International Review of Cytology. 140: pp 525-561

Elleman, C.J, Franklin-Tong, V, Dickinson, H.G. (1992) Pollination in species with dry stigmas: the nature of the early stigmatic response and the pathway taken by pollen tubes New Phytologist. 121 (3): pp 413-424