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Polyploidy and Hybridisation in Agriculture, Speciation and Evolution

We are an Emmy Noether DFG funded research group within the Department of Plant Breeding at Justus Liebig University (since 2015).



Research Group Leader: Annaliese Mason



Our research focus is on polyploidy and interspecific hybridisation, or in other words how two different species can come together to form a new, hybrid species. We aim to use this common evolutionary process for crop improvement in the Brassica genus, which contains important oilseed (canola, rapeseed) and vegetable (cabbage, turnip, cauliflower, broccoli) crops.

Research Keywords

Molecular marker genotyping

Classical and molecular cytogenetics

Flow cytometry

Population genetics

Genomic analysis

Meiosis and chromosome inheritance

Polyploidy and interspecific hybridization





Group Leader

Annaliese Mason


PhD students

Roman Gaebelein

Elvis Katche

Elizabeth Ihien

Margaret Mwathi (external, co-supervised with Prof. Jacqueline Batley at The University of Western Australia)

Research assistants

Liane Renno

Ingrid Schneider-Hüther



Jun Zou

Madiha Gohar

Ogaga Ejayese

Annette Klein




Current Research Projects


Allohexaploid Brassica

Although the Brassica genus contains both diploid (2n = 2x; one set of chromosomes/genome) and allotetraploid (2n = 4x; two sets of chromosomes/genomes) species, no naturally occurring three-genome allohexaploid exists. We aim to synthesise novel allohexaploid Brassica genotypes and investigate genome stability and fertility in these lines. A new allohexaploid Brassica crop will hopefully demonstrate improved hybrid vigour and adaptability, allowing incorporation of useful traits from all six cultivated Brassica diploid and allotetraploid species.


Hybrid speciation

Presence or absence of additional chromosomes (aneuploidy) is a phenomenon found to be increasingly common in nature. We are interested in whether aneuploidy can lead to speciation, or at least formation of new, stable karyotypes in Brassica. Chromosome and allele inheritance in different populations of novel interspecific hybrid types are being tracked across generations to determine what role aneuploidy may play in hybrid speciation in Brassica, or if new, stable genomes can be established over time.

Recreating genomically stable rapeseed

In order to increase genetic diversity in highly inbred crop rapeseed (Brassica napus), a common method is to “recreate” this species by making new hybrids between rapeseed progenitor species B. rapa and B. oleracea. However, these hybrids also have unstable genomes due to poor control of meiosis, and lose chromosomes, and hence essential genetic information for plant growth and fertility, from generation to generation. The reason for this genome instability is unknown, particularly since “natural” B. napus is genomically stable. We aim to investigate genomic stability in a large set of human-made hybrid rapeseed genotypes using high-throughput marker genotyping, fertility phenotyping and cytogenetics. Identification of the mechanism/s of genomic stability in B. napus will not only provide fascinating insights into the evolutionary history of this species, but will be immediately useful for informing and assisting in transfer of useful genetic diversity into rapeseed.


Join Us!

If our current research work sounds interesting or if you have an idea for a related research project, please contact Dr. Annaliese Mason ( We usually have projects available at the MSc and undergraduate level for students enrolled at JLU. We are open to PhD or postdoc applications through the DAAD ( and other scholarship programs: if you are interested in applying and would like to discuss the possibility of me hosting you then please contact me by email and attach a copy of your CV, two or more written references and a one-page outline or summary of your project ideas or proposal.