Researchers at UCD


Rainer Melzer

Assistant Professor

School of Biology & Environmental Science
Room 148
Science Centre West

Tel: +35317162290


Lab website:
01/2015 - present
Lecturer/Assistant Professor
School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin

10/2012 - 09/2014
Interim Professor (stand-in for a vacant professorship) of Genetics
Institute of Biology, University of Leipzig

10/2010 - 12/2014
Carl Zeiss fellowship for postdoctoral students
Department of Genetics, Friedrich Schiller University Jena    

04/2011 - 09/2011
Parental leave

09/2009 - 09/2010
Postdoctoral researcher
Department of Genetics, Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Dr. rer. nat. (Ph.D. equivalent) in Genetics, "summa cum laude" (equivalent to "with distinction")
Department of Genetics, Friedrich Schiller University Jena

Diploma in Biology "Mit Auszeichnung bestanden" (equivalent to "with distinction")
Major subject: Botany; Minor subjects: Genetics and Biochemistry


Honours and Awards

Year: 2010.
Title: Postdoctoral Fellowship, Carl Zeiss Foundation
Year: 2010.
Title: Ph.D. Award of the School of Biology and Pharmacy, Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Year: 2006.
Title: Ph.D. Fellowship, German National Academic Foundation
Year: 2002.
Title: Student Fellowship, German National Academic Foundation


Employer: University College Dublin
Position: Lecturer
Employer: University of Leipzig
Position: Deputy Professor
Employer: Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Position: Postdoctoral Scientist


Year 2009 Institution: Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Qualification: Dr rer nat Subject: PhD
Year 2005 Institution: Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Qualification: Dip Biology Subject:



Book Chapters

Theissen, G., Melzer, R. (2013) 'Flower development, Genetics of' In: Maloy, S., Hughes, K (eds). Brenner's Encyclopedia of Genetics. London, Waltham, San Diego: Elsevier. , pp.67-71 [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Theissen, G. (2011) 'MADS and more: transcription factors that shape the plant' In: Yuan, L., Perry, S. E (eds). Plant Transcription Factors; Methods in Molecular Biology. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer. , pp.3-18 Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Theissen, G., Melzer, R. (2006) 'Combinatorial control of floral organ identity by MADS-domain transcription factors' In: Grasser, K (eds). Annual plant reviews, Regulation of transcription in plants. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. [DOI] [Details]

Peer Reviewed Journals

Theißen, G., Melzer, R. (2016) 'Robust views on plasticity and biodiversity'. Annals of Botany, 117 (5):693-697. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Theißen, G., Melzer, R., Rümpler, F. (2016) 'MADS-domain transcription factors and the floral quartet model of flower development: linking plant development and evolution'. Development, 143 (18):3259-3271. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R; Theißen, G. (2016) 'The significance of developmental robustness for species diversity'. Annals of Botany, 117 (5):725-732. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Rümpler, F; Gramzow, L., Theißen, G., Melzer, R. (2015) 'Did convergent protein evolution enable phytoplasmas to generate 'zombie plants'?'. Trends in Plant Science, 20 (12):798-806. [DOI] [Details]
Rümpler, F; Theißen, G.; Melzer, R. (2015) 'Character-state reconstruction to infer ancestral protein-protein interaction patterns'. Bio-protocol, 5 (16). Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Jetha, K., Theissen, G., Melzer, R. (2014) 'Arabidopsis SEPALLATA proteins differ in cooperative DNA-binding during the formation of floral quartet-like complexes'. Nucleic Acids Research, 42 (17):10927-10942. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Puranik, S., Acajjaoui, S., Conn, S., Costa, L., Conn, V., Vial, A., Marcellin, R., Melzer, R., Brown, E., Hart, D., Theissen, G., Silva, C. S., Parcy, F., Dumas, R., Nanao, M., Zubieta, C. (2014) 'Structural Basis for the Oligomerization of the MADS Domain Transcription Factor SEPALLATA3 in Arabidopsis'. Plant Cell, 26 (9):3603-3615. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Haerter, A., Ruempler, F., Kim, S., Soltis, P. S., Soltis, D. E., Theissen, G. (2014) 'DEF- and GLO-like proteins may have lost most of their interaction partners during angiosperm evolution'. Annals of Botany, 114 (7):1431-1443. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Lange, M., Orashakova, S., Lange, S., Melzer, R., Theissen, G., Smyth, D. R., Becker, A. (2013) 'The seirena B class floral homeotic mutant of california poppy (Eschscholzia californica) reveals a function of the enigmatic PI motif in the formation of specific multimeric MADS domain protein complexes'. Plant Cell, 25 (2):438-53. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Galimba, K. D., Tolkin, T. R., Sullivan, A. M., Melzer, R., Theissen, G., Di Stilio, V. S. (2012) 'Loss of deeply conserved C-class floral homeotic gene function and C- and E-class protein interaction in a double-flowered ranunculid mutant'. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109 (34):75. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Wang, Y. Q., Melzer, R., Theissen, G. (2011) 'A double-flowered variety of lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor fl. pl.) that has persisted in the wild for more than 160 years'. Annals of Botany, 107 (9):1445-52. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Erdmann, R., Gramzow, L., Melzer, R., Theissen, G., Becker, A. (2010) 'GORDITA (AGL63) is a young paralog of the Arabidopsis thaliana B(sister) MADS box gene ABS (TT16) that has undergone neofunctionalization'. Plant Journal, 63 (6):914-24. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Wang, Y. Q., Melzer, R., Theissen, G. (2010) 'Molecular interactions of orthologues of floral homeotic proteins from the gymnosperm Gnetum gnemon provide a clue to the evolutionary origin of 'floral quartets''. Plant Journal, 64 (2):177-190. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Wang, Y. Q., Theissen, G. (2010) 'The naked and the dead: the ABCs of gymnosperm reproduction and the origin of the angiosperm flower'. Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 21 (1):118-28. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Theissen, G. (2009) 'Reconstitution of 'floral quartets' in vitro involving class B and class E floral homeotic proteins'. Nucleic Acids Research, 37 (8):2723-36. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Verelst, W., Theissen, G. (2009) 'The class E floral homeotic protein SEPALLATA3 is sufficient to loop DNA in 'floral quartet'-like complexes in vitro'. Nucleic Acids Research, 37 (1):144-57. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Theissen, G., Melzer, R. (2007) 'Molecular mechanisms underlying origin and diversification of the angiosperm flower'. Annals of Botany, 100 (3):603-619. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Melzer, R., Kaufmann, K., Theissen, G. (2006) 'Missing links: DNA-binding and target gene specificity of floral homeotic proteins'. Advances in Botanical Research, 44 :209-236. Available Online [DOI] [Details]
Kaufmann, K., Melzer, R., Theissen, G. (2005) 'MIKC-type MADS-domain proteins: structural modularity, protein interactions and network evolution in land plants'. Gene, 347 (2):183-198. Available Online [DOI] [Details]


Research Interests

The overarching question of my research agenda is how the molecular machinery of organisms determines their development, evolution and diversity. Specifically, my research interest is on the genetic and molecular basis of flower development and evolution as well as on the molecular mechanisms and the evolutionary significance of developmental robustness.

I employ molecular genetics and biophysical methods to better understand general mechanisms of how transcription factors that govern floral organ identity act as molecular switches to determine the identity of cell types, tissues and organs. Using a comparative evolutionary approach, I aim to elucidate how the function of key regulatory proteins may have changed during evolution and how this contributed to plant biodiversity. 

The research on developmental robustness is driven by the hypothesis that robustness and biodiversity are intimately linked; with robust control over development facilitating the diversification of living beings. Importantly, developmental robustness and resistance to environmental change are inherently related to each other. This research is therefore highly interdisciplinary, linking evolutionary, ecological, developmental genetic and biodiversity research questions.

More information is available at the lab website:


Recent Postgraduates

Khushboo Jetha (former Ph.D. student, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, co-supervisor; main supervisor: Guenter Theissen)


Teaching Philosophy

My teaching approach is driven by the idea that teaching one biological phenomenon in great detail enhances the general understanding of biological principles. My emphasize in teaching is on understanding principles, techniques and approaches and not the mere repetition of facts.


Internal Collaborators

External Collaborators

Prof. Guenter Theissen, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany

Prof. Veronica Di Stilio, University of Washington, USA