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Célia Miguel Lab


Forest trees have a huge ecological and socio-economic impact. They provide the biomaterials for highly competitive forest industries. Efficient strategies for tree selection, improvement and clonal propagation are required in order to meet the increasing demand for forest products better suited for industry applications. However, the establishment of such strategies depends on a better knowledge of the biological processes underlying the traits of interest.


Célia Miguel
Investigador Principal
PhD 1999 in Plant Biotechnology, UL

Phone (+351) 214469627
Extension 1627



Research Interests

At the Forest Biotech Lab we are studying the molecular mechanisms that control key developmental processes in trees, focusing on (1) wood and cork formation and (2) embryogenesis in conifers.

(1) Wood and cork formation depend on the activity of the vascular cambium and the cork cambium, which are the lateral meristems that continuously nourish cells that become xylem/wood or phellem/cork cells, respectively. Wood formation follows a well-defined sequence of events starting with cell division at the core of the vascular cambium and ending in programmed cell death. We recently uncovered a mechanism that operates specifically in the xylem ensuring the correct timing for cell death. This mechanism relies on the action of the polyamine thermospermine and involves auxin and a class III HD-Zip transcription factor, but other regulators are being investigated.
Much less knowledge is available on the molecular basis of cork formation. We are currently pursuing the identification of transcriptional regulators involved in the control of cork cambium activity.

(2) Plant embryogenesis can be induced in vitro from somatic cells in a process called somatic embryogenesis. This process is of great interest for large scale propagation and rapid production of genetically improved and uniform seedlings. We have established in our lab a somatic embryogenesis system for maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) but to optimize it, a better understanding of the mechanisms governing embryogenesis in conifer species is needed. We recently showed that epigenetic regulation and transcriptional control related to auxin transport and response are critical during early to mid stages of pine embryogenesis. Further work is ongoing concerning the involvement of sRNA pathways in the regulation of embryo development.
We are also involved in national and international networks for developing genomic resources in species such as cork oak and maritime pine. 


Group Members

    • Sofia Leal, Assistant Researcher
    • Inês Chaves, Invited Researcher
    • Joana Vieira, Post-Doc
    • Andreia Rodrigues, PhD Student
    • Andreia Matos, PhD Student
    • Inês Modesto, Project Research Fellow (BI)
    • Susana Lopes, Project Research Fellow (BI)
    • Bruno Costa, Project Research Fellow (BI)
    • José Cerca de Oliveira, Project Research Fellow (BI)
    • Sónia Correia, Master student
    • Sofia Gonçalves, Master student

Selected Publications

  1. Chaves I, Lin Y-C, Pinto-Ricardo C, Van de Peer Y, Miguel CM (2014) miRNA profiling in leaf and cork tissues of Quercus suber reveals novel miRNAs and tissue-specific expression patterns. Tree Genetics & Genomes 10:721–737.
  2. Canales J, Bautista R, Label P, Gomez-Maldonado J, Lesur I, Fernández-Pozo N, Rueda-López M, Guerrero-Fernández D, Castro-Rodriguez V, Benzekri H, Canas R, Guevara M-A, Rodrigues A, Seoane P, Teyssier C, Ehrenmann F, Morel A, Le Provost G, Lalanne C, Noirot C, Klopp C, Raymond I, Garcia-Gutierrez A, Trontin J-F, Lelu-Walter M-A, Miguel CM, Cervera MT, Canton F, Plomion C, Harvengt L, Avila C, Claros MG, Canovas F (2014) De novo assembly of maritime pine transcriptome: implications for forest breeding and biotechnology. Plant Biotechnology Journal 12: 286-299.
  3. Milhinhos A, Prestele J, Bollhöner B, Matos A, Vera-Sirera F, Rambla JL, Ljung K, Carbonell J, Blázquez MA, Tuominen H, Miguel CM. (2013) Thermospermine levels are controlled by an auxin-dependent feedback-loop mechanism in Populus xylem. Plant Journal 75:685-698.
  4. de Vega-Bartol J Simões M, Lorenz W, Rodrigues AS, Alba R, Dean JFD, Miguel CM (2013) Transcriptomic analysis highlights epigenetic and transcriptional regulation during zygotic embryo development of Pinus pinaster. BMC Plant Biology 13:123.

Laboratory's Website

For further information visit the laboratory's website


Biotecnologia Florestal (PT)

As árvores florestais representam um recurso de elevado valor económico, ambiental e social. No nosso laboratório investigamos alguns aspectos da biologia do desenvolvimento que podem ser importantes para a valorização de espécies florestais representativas em Portugal como o pinheiro bravo e o sobreiro. Desenvolvemos um método de propagação vegetativa (clonagem) do pinheiro designado por embriogénese somática e que permite obter um grande número de embriões geneticamente idênticos a partir de células somáticas cultivadas in vitro. A utilização deste sistema experimental juntamente com outras ferramentas como a manipulação genética permite-nos também estudar a função de genes que controlam mecanismos tão diversos como por exemplo o desenvolvimento dos embriões ou a resistência a doenças. Estamos ainda interessados em perceber quais os genes e de que modo controlam a actividade de determinadas células não diferenciadas (meristemas) que são responsáveis pela formação de madeira e cortiça.


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