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Circadian Signal Transduction

Head of Group: Prof. Alex Webb

Alex WebbWe 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.

arabidopsis seedlings
Arabidopsis seedlings
We are collaborating with Bayer Bioscience to convert our biological discoveries in to real world solutions for crop improvement.

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.

chlorophyll
Pseudocolour photon counting image of chlorophyll fluorescence used as a marker for circadian rhythms in Arabidopsis seedlings; Pseudocolour image of firefly luciferase luminescence under the control of a circadian clock gene promoter in transgenic Arabidopsis seedlings
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.