Head of Group: Dr Alex Webb
We are working out how plants measure time by studying a 24 h timing device called the circadian clock. We identify how the circadian clock provides benefits to plants to maximize their growth and productivity. As part of these studies we discovered that the regulation of photosynthesis, carbon metabolism and growth are regulated by the circadian clock. This demonstrated that circadian clocks are very beneficial to plants and that they regulate plant responses to cold and other stressful environmental events. We use molecular genetic, transcriptomic, imaging and physiological techniques to understand circadian mechanisms. We also develop new engineering approaches for systems biology in collaboration with Dr Jorge Gonçalves in the Department of Engineering.
Current projects include:
The role of cytosolic-free calcium in the circadian clock
Circadian clocks in all organisms are made up of networks of regulatory genes in much the same way as the cogs in a mechanical watch. We are studying the role of the calcium ion in regulating these genes of the clock.
Calcium as signals in plant stress
Plants have exquisite signalling mechanisms to detect their environment and respond to diverse stresses including drought, cold and pathogen attack. We study the role of the calcium ion and calcium-binding proteins in helping the plant survive.
NAD signalling in stress and circadian rhythms
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) is a substrate for enzymes involved in modification of DNA. We are investigating the importance of NAD in regulating circadian clocks and stress signalling using genetic approaches.
Regulation of the circadian clock by metabolism
We are studying why and how sugars produced by photosynthesis regulate circadian clocks.
Mathematical modelling of circadian clocks
To help understand the nature of complex circadian clocks we make mathematical models of the underlying networks using linear modelling tools.