Plant Signalling and Development

Understanding fundamental cellular processes

Plants and their environment

Plants are adept at sensing changes in the environment, integrating multiple signalling inputs and modulating developmental programmes to enable them to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Understanding the mechanisms underlying signal integration and transduction at the cellular level is fundamentally important and the knowledge gained will provide us with the possibility to improve plant/crop traits for a range of abiotic and biotic stressors. Additionally, elucidating the molecular and genetic basis of regulatory pathways controlling development and tissue morphogenesis will have fundamental importance for plant breeding programmes.

Our research contributes to environmental sustainability and food security through innovations in plant/crop responses to environmental change, abiotic and biotic stressors.

Abiotic stress resistance in plants and crops

We are investigating the signalling mechanisms and molecular responses of plants/crops to various abiotic stresses, e.g. drought, cold, flooding and salt. We are using a variety of approaches ranging from molecular genetics to 'omics' technologies to elucidate the molecular mechanisms for abiotic stress tolerance. This has the potential to identify new genetic targets for breeding programmes.

Biotic stress resistance in plants and crops

We are studying the signalling mechanisms employed by plants and crops to cope with disease causing agents, e.g., bacterial and fungal pathogens. Of particular interest are the roles of orphan genes as novel signalling intermediates regulating plant responses to pathogens. We are also interested in the roles of effector proteins in plant-microbe interactions, and the mechanisms employed by fungal pathogens to overcome plant immunity. These areas of research have the potential for the development of strategies to enhance disease resistance in plants and crops.

Plant development

We are investigating how the molecular machinery of organisms determine their development, evolution, and diversity. In particular, we are interested in dissecting the genetic and molecular basis of flower development and evolution as well as the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary significance of developmental processes. We are also investigating the regulation of programmed cell death in plants, focusing on the roles of calcium, lipid mediators and fungal mycotoxins in the control of plant programmed cell death. Our research is interdisciplinary and involves linkages between evolutionary, ecological, developmental genetics and biodiversity research.