Developmental and Cell Biology of Plants

Jiri Friml

Plants and animals live different lives. Whereas animals typically react with a behavioral response, plants have acquired a highly adaptive development that tailors their phenotype to the environment. Plant development is therefore characterized by a remarkable adaptability to different environmental conditions. In terms of development, plants can do much more than animals: They initiate and grow new organs even during their post-embryonic development; they have permanent populations of stem cells throughout their whole life-span and they are able to change their direction of growth depending on external stimuli.

Many of these unique developmental events are mediated by the plant hormone auxin. Auxin is unique among plant signaling molecules. Unlike others, it is transported in a polar fashion through plant tissues and forms concentration gradients that can integrate endogenous signals as well as signals from the environment. Auxin transport is driven by the action of transport proteins, including efflux carriers of the PIN protein family. The localization of PIN transporters within cells determines the direction of auxin flow and thus represents a mechanism which can also define asymmetric auxin distribution within tissues. The auxin transport system thus provides positional and directional information for many aspects of adaptive plant development.

Our research has strongly interdisciplinary character. We conduct physiological, developmental biological and cell biological studies combining approaches of molecular biology, molecular genetics, biochemistry and mathematical modeling. The main areas of our research encompass:

  1. Polar auxin transport
  2. Cell polarity and polar targeting
  3. Endocytosis and recycling
  4. Non-transcriptional mechanisms of signaling

In the course of our studies we obtained fundamental insights into mechanisms governing plant development. They also show how signals from the environment are integrated into endogenous signaling networks and translated into changes in plant growth and development. Many of our discoveries are relevant for agricultural applications. Our results provide a conceptual possibility to manipulate developmental processes including plant architecture and fruit set and ripening. Manipulating root growth and branching can generate root systems that are more suitable for arid and low nutrition soils.

Jiri Friml
Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria)
Am Campus 1
A – 3400 Klosterneuburg



»Publication list


Alexandra Mally
Tel: +43 (0)2243 9000-1105


  • Maciek Adamowski, Postdoc
  • Madhumitha Narasimhan, PhD Student
  • Lukas Hörmayer, PhD Student
  • Mina Vasileva, PhD Student
  • Shutang Tan, Postdoc
  • Huibin Han, PhD Student
  • Lesia Rodriguez Solovey, Postdoc
  • Yuzhou Zhang, Postdoc
  • Lanxin Li, PhD Student
  • XiXi Zhang, Predoctoral Visiting Scientist
  • Inge Verstraeten, Postdoc
  • Alexander Johnson, Postdoc
  • Zuzana Gelova, Predoctoral Visiting Scientist
  • Scott Sinclair, Postdoc
  • Jakub Hajny, PhD Student

Selected Publications

    • Rapid and reversible root growth inhibition by TIR1 auxin signalling. Fendrych M, Akhmanova M, Merrin J, Glanc M, Hagihara S, Takahashi K, Uchida N, Torii KU, Friml J. Nat Plants. 2018 Jul; 4(7):453-459.
    • A Functional Study of AUXILIN-LIKE1 and 2, Two Putative Clathrin Uncoating Factors in Arabidopsis. Adamowski M, Narasimhan M, Kania U, Glanc M, De Jaeger G, Friml J. Plant Cell. 2018 Mar; 30(3):700-716.
    • Gibberellin DELLA signaling targets the retromer complex to redirect protein trafficking to the plasma membrane. Salanenka Y, Verstraeten I, Löfke C, Tabata K, Naramoto S, Glanc M, Friml J. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Apr 3; 115(14):3716-3721.


      Since 2012 Professor, IST Austria
      2007-2012 Full Professor, University of Ghent, Belium
      2006 Full Professor, University of Göttingen, Germany
      2002-2005 Grouleader, Habilitation in Genetics, University of Tübingen, Germany
      2002 PhD, Biochemistry, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic
      2000 PhD, Biology, University of Cologne, Germany

      Selected Distinctions

      Regularly Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher

      2017 ERC Advanced Grant
      2016 Charles Albert Shull Award (ASPB)
      2015 Selected to 2015 World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds

      2015 Erwin Schrödinger Prize (Austrian Academy of Science)
      2014 Elected member of Junge Kurie, Austrian Academy of Science
      2014 Běhounek Prize (Czech Ministry of Education)
      2013 ERC Starting Grant
      2012 EMBO Gold Medal
      2011 Elected fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
      2010 Olchemim Scientific Award
      2010 Körber European Science Award
      2010 Elected EMBO member
      2009 2nd most cited developmental biologist and 4th most cited plant biologist in Germany/Austria/Switzerland (Labor Journal)
      2007 Odysseus Award, Flanders Science Foundation
      2005 Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize
      2004 EMBO Young Investigator Award
      2002 VolkswagenStiftung Award
      2000 Max Planck Society Award: The Otto Hahn Medal