Vernonica (Noni) is a plant cell biologist, renowned for her studies on self-incompatibility (SI). She has devoted her career to investigating cellular mechanisms involved in the regulation of the cell-cell recognition system of SI in Papaver rhoeas (the Field Poppy). SI plays a decisive role in determining flowering plant reproductive success by preventing inbreeding through recognition and inhibition of 'self' pollen.
She initiated pioneering cell and molecular research of Papaver SI. Her development of an in vitro bioassay allowed investigation of the cell biology of SI for the first time. This outstanding model system enabled elucidation of mechanisms responsible for rejection of incompatible pollen. Her studies have uncovered an intricate intracellular signalling network and revolutionized our understanding of the signals, downstream targets and key cellular processes that regulate SI, revealing new phenomena critical to this process, culminating in programmed cell death.
Achieving the first functional trans-genera transfer of a SI system using the Papaver S-determinants has implications for translational work; longer-term this may aid the quest to make F1 hybrids in some crops more easily.
Emeritus Professor of Plant Cell Biology and Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Birmingham