Ferrandiz Lab


  • Summary
  • GainGrain: Understanding genetic hubs in rice inflorescence architecture to increase grain yield

    GainGrain addresses grain (fruit) production in rice, which is one of the most important cereals species, a major staple food and the most important model plant for the wide and important phylogenetic group of monocots.

    GainGrain intends to improve yield by dissecting the regulatory mechanisms that control the branched inflorescence architecture of rice, aiming to both identify new functions and analyze the regulatory networks of conserved transcription factors. This will enable us to determine, and eventually optimize, rice inflorescence morphogenesis. Nevertheless, GainGrain is designed to transfer the knowledge and molecular tools obtained in rice to other crops, not just other cereals but even eudicot crops. Identifying and understanding the role of molecular networks, their direct targets and interactors, and their involvement in regulating the number of inflorescence branches and flowers in each species, would provide evolutionary and developmental insights and new major targets for crop yield improvement.

  • Goals and main results
  • Goals and context

    Reproductive development, one of the most important stages in the plant life cycle, is essential for plant propagation, but also for crop yield. As a result, the molecular regulation of inflorescence architecture is an important research focus.

    Domesticated rice (Oryza sativa L.) is a staple crop and by far the most convenient model cereal for research. Often, the knowledge and tools developed in rice can be transferred and validated in other common and ‘orphan’ cereals.

    Rice has a complex inflorescence (panicle) whose architecture is established by iterations of branching, and is built by a group of undifferentiated, actively dividing cells forming the inflorescence meristem. The more branched is the inflorescence, the more grain it can produce. Therefore, if we could control inflorescence meristem activity to make more branched and/or longer inflorescence, with more room to set grain, we should be able to produce significant yield increases. Several genes that regulate rice inflorescence meristem activity have been already discovered, but only a very few of them could be used to make more productive plants. To fully exploit the potential of these genes for crop breeding, we need to advance our theoretical knowledge about how they work and are connected, which is the aim of this action, ‘GainGrain’.

    Main results

    GainGrain addresses grain production in rice, which is one of the most important cereals species, a major staple food, and the most important model plant for the wide phylogenetic group of monocots. It intends to dissect the regulatory mechanisms that control the branched inflorescence architecture of rice, aiming to both identify new functions and analyze the regulatory networks of conserved genes. This will eventually lead to improved rice inflorescence morphogenesis, facilitating breeding programs. Nevertheless, GainGrain is designed to transfer to other crops the knowledge and molecular tools obtained in rice. In collaboration with the group of prof. Dabing Zhang in Shanghai, we have clarified how some of these genes interact to regulate rice inflorescence architecture and complexity, and found several more candidate for future analysis. Moreover, our analysis on more species suggested that the molecular mechanisms that we have characterized in rice is quite conserved among plants, which is interesting for future applications in other crops. We are making public these findings by publications and dissemination at conferences and other events.


    The Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions are terrific opportunities to support the early career of young scientists. This project is giving us excellent clues and data to establish our future field of research in rice reproduction. Although a process like this requires years, our ultimate goal is to exploit the genetic potential of rice to increase its productivity, and to provide new tools for breeders.

  • Participants
  • Ludovico Dreni is the researcher responsible for this MSCA action.

    Cristina Ferrandiz is the supervisor at the host institution, the IBMCP.

    Other collaborators involved in the action are Dr. Christophe Perin at CIRAD (Montpellier, France) and Prof Dabing Zhang, group leader of two laboratories in Third Countries (Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China and University of Adelaide, Australia).

  • Funding
  • Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships from European Union, H2020 Programme


  • Ludo's CV
  • Researcher unique identifiers:

    ResearchID B-2520-2018;

    SCOPUS 8542961500;

    ORCID 0000-0002-2059-8420

    Date of birth: 22nd December 1979

    Nationality: Italian


    • 29/11/2007 PhD in Genetic and Biomolecular Sciences. Dissertation: Molecular genetic studies of ovule and kernel development in rice. Department of Biosciences, University of Milan, Italy. PhD supervisor: Prof. Martin M Kater
    • 12/10/2004 Master Degree in Biological Sciences (specialization in Plant Biology). Department of Biosciences, University of Milan, Italy.
    • 08/07/1998 High school diploma in Agronomy and agricultural techniques; Istituto Tecnico Agrario Statale "Giovanni Raineri", Piacenza, Italy.

    SPOKEN LANGUAGES: Italian, native speaker; Emilian, native speaker; English, fluent written and spoken; Spanish, fluently spoken and good written.


    • June 2021-present. ‘Marie Curie to ERC’ extension grant from Spanish Research Council (CSIC). Host lab: Lab of Evolution and Development of Carpels and Fruits of Dr. Cristina Ferrándiz (CSIC-UPV Valencia, Spain).
    • 2019-2021. Horizon 2020 Marie Curie IF Reintegration Fellowship 844142 ‘GainGrain’, 2 years (160,932 €). Host lab: Lab of Evolution and Development of Carpels and Fruits of Dr. Cristina Ferrándiz (CSIC-UPV Valencia, Spain).
    • 2016-2018. Horizon 2020 Marie Curie IF Global Fellowship 661678 ‘Ricestyle’, three years (223,121 €). Host institutions: Lab of Evolution and Development of Carpels and Fruits of Dr. Cristina Ferrándiz (coordinator; CSIC-UPV Valencia, Spain). Lab of Plant Developmental Biology of Prof. Dabing Zhang, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China);


    • 2017-2019. Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Projects. PIs: D. Zhang; R. Burton; L Dreni; M. Kater; M. Bennett. Host institution: University of Adelaide. http://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/DP170103352
    • 2016-2017. Research Fund for International Young Scientists, National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). PI: L. Dreni. Host institution: Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
    • 2015-2016. China Postdoctoral Science Foundation postdoctoral grant. PI: L. Dreni. Host institution: Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

    PUBLICATIONS (Those without any PhD supervisor are marked with *)

    • *P20 (IF 5.753). Shen C, Li G, Dreni L, Zhang D. Molecular Control of Carpel Development in the Grass Family. Front Plant Sci. 16;12:635500. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.635500. eCollection 2021.
    • P19 (IF 6.992). Osnato M, Lacchini E, Pilatone A, Dreni L, Grioni A, Chiara M, Horner D, Pelaz S, Kater MM (2021). Transcriptome analysis reveals rice MADS13 as an important repressor of the carpel development pathway in ovules. J Exp Bot. 72:398-414. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eraa460.
    • P18 (IF 4.4; 1st decile). Dreni L (first and co-corresponding author), Ravasio A, Gonzalez-Schain N, Jacchia S, Jaqueline da Silva GJ, Ricagno S, Russo R, Caselli F, Gregis V, Kater MM (2020). Functionally Divergent Splicing Variants of the Rice AGAMOUS Ortholog OsMADS3 Are Evolutionary Conserved in Grasses. Front Plant Sci 11:637. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2020.00637.
    • *P17 (IF 5,949; 1st decile). Wu D, Liang W, Zhu W, Chen M, Ferrándiz C, Burton RA, Dreni L (co-corresponding author), Zhang D (2018). Loss of LOFSEP Transcription Factor Function Converts Spikelet to Leaf-Like Structures in Rice. Plant Physiol. 176:1646-64. doi: 10.1104/pp.17.00704.
    • *P16 (IF 3,092; 1st quartile). Meng Q, Li X, Zhu W, Yang L, Liang W, Dreni L (co-corresponding author), Zhang D (2017). Regulatory network and genetic interactions established by OsMADS34 in rice inflorescence and spikelet morphogenesis. J Integr Plant Biol. 59:693-707. doi: 10.1111/jipb.12594.
    • *P15 (IF 5,354; 1st decile). Xu W, Tao J, Chen M, Dreni L, Luo Z, Hu Y, Liang W, Zhang D (2017). Interactions between FLORAL ORGAN NUMBER4 and floral homeotic genes in regulating rice flower development. J Exp Bot. 68:483-498. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw459.
    • *P14 (IF 4,122; 1st quartile). Mizzotti C, Galliani BM, Dreni L, Sommer H, Bombarely A, Masiero S (2017). ERAMOSA controls lateral branching in snapdragon. Sci Rep. 7:41319. doi: 10.1038/srep41319.
    • *P13 (IF 5,83; 1st decile). Dreni L (corresponding author), Zhang D. Flower development: the evolutionary history and functions of the AGL6 subfamily MADS-box genes (2016). JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 67:1625-38. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw046.
    • P12 (IF 4,76; 1st decile). González-Schain N, Dreni, L, Lawas L, Galbiati M, Colombo L, Heuer S, Jagadish K, Kater MM (2016). Genome-Wide Transcriptome Analysis During Anthesis Reveals New Insights in The Molecular Basis of Heat Stress Responses in Tolerant and Sensitive Rice Varieties. PLANT CELL PHYSIOLOGY 57, 57-68. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcv174.
    • P11 (IF 4,257; 1st decile). Xiao Y, Chen Y, Charnikhova T, Mulder PPJ, Heijmans J, Hoogenboom A, Agalou A, Michel C, Morel J-B, Dreni L, Kater MM, Bouwmeester H, Wang M, Zhu Z, Ouwerkerk PBF (2014). OsJAR1 is required for JA-regulated floret opening and anther dehiscence in rice. PLANT MOLECULAR BIOLOGY 86, 19-33. doi: 10.1007/s11103-014-0212-y.
    • P10 (IF 7,672; 1st decile). Dreni L, Kater MM (2014). MADS reloaded: evolution of the AGAMOUS subfamily genes. NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 201, 717-732. doi: 10.1111/nph.12555.
    • P9 (IF 1,478; 2nd quartile). Casella L, Greco R, Bruschi G, Wozniak B, Dreni L, Kater MM, Cavigiolo S, Lupotto E, Piffanelli P (2013). TILLING in European rice: hunting mutations for crop improvement. CROP SCIENCE 53, 2550-2562. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2012.12.0693
    • P8 (IF 6,605; 1st decile). Dreni L, Osnato M, Kater MM (2013). The Ins and Outs of the Rice AGAMOUS Subfamily. Review. MOLECULAR PLANT 6, 650-664. doi: 10.1093/mp/sst019.
    • P7 (IF 6,605; 1st decile). Yun D, Liang W, Dreni L (co-first author), Yin C, Zhou Z, Kater MM, Zhang D (2013). OsMADS16 interacts with OsMADS3 and OsMADS58 in specifying floral patterning in rice. MOLECULAR PLANT 6, 743-756. doi: 10.1093/mp/sst003.
    • P6 (IF 8,987; 1st decile). Dreni L, Pilatone A, Yun D, Erreni S, Pajoro A, Caporali E, Zhang D, Kater MM (2011). Functional analysis of all four AGAMOUS subfamily members in rice reveals their roles in reproductive organ identity determination and meristem determinacy. THE PLANT CELL 23, 2850-2863. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.087007.
    • P5 (IF 8,987; 1st decile). Li H, Liang W, Hu Y, Zhu L, Yin C, Xu J, Dreni L, Kater MM, Zhang D (2011). Rice MADS6 interacts with the floral homeotic genes SUPERWOMAN1, MADS3, MADS58, MADS13, and DROOPING LEAF in specifying floral organ identities and meristem fate. THE PLANT CELL 23, 2536-2552. doi: 10.1105/tpc.111.087262.
    • P4 (IF 5,442; 1st decile). Toppino L, Kooiker M, Lindner M, Dreni L, Rotino GL, Kater MM (2011). Reversible male sterility in eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) by artificial microRNA-mediated silencing of general transcription factor genes. PLANT BIOTECHNOLOGY JOURNAL 9, 684-692. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2010.00567.x. Epub 2010 Oct 18.
    • P3 (IF 6,751; 1st decile). Dreni L, Jacchia S, Fornara F, Fornari M, Ouwerkerk PB, An G, Colombo L, Kater MM (2007). The D-lineage MADS-box gene OsMADS13 controls ovule identity in rice. PLANT JOURNAL 52, 690-699. dos: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2007.03272.x
    • P2 (IF 3,917). Kater MM, Dreni L, Colombo L (2006). Functional conservation of MADS-box factors controlling floral organ identity in rice and Arabidopsis. Review. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY 57, 3433-3444. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erl097
    • P1 (IF 5,234). Lago C, Clerici E, Dreni L, Horlow C, Caporali E, Colombo L, Kater MM (2005). The Arabidopsis TFIID factor AtTAF6 controls pollen tube growth. DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY 285, 91-100. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erl097


    • Zhang D, Yuan Z, An G, Dreni L, Hu J, Kater MM (2013). Panicle development. Book chapter in Genetics and Genomics of Rice, Springer. ISBN 978-1-4614-7902-4.
    • (In preparation) Ludovico Dreni will be the single author of a chapter in the second edition in preparation of the book: Flower Development, Methods and Protocols 2014 (Springer; Editors: Riechmann, José Luis, Ferrandiz, Cristina).


    The results of Ludovico Dreni and collaborators were presented through oral communications and posters in more than 40 conferences and seminars so far.


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