Professor Sir David Baulcombe, Regius Professor of Botany, Royal Society Research Professor
Gene silencing and disease resistance
Plants have multiple mechanisms to combat disease and, consequently, they are each resistant to most pathogens. In our investigation of these mechanisms against viruses we discovered components of a process - RNA silencing - that is common to both animals and plants. It emerged later that RNA silencing has significance beyond disease resistance.
In our current research we continue to investigate the mechanisms and biological role of RNA silencing in disease resistance. However we also have an interest in the link between RNA silencing and the control of gene expression at various stages of the plant life cycle. We are particularly interested in the potential of RNA to initiate epigenetic effects - changes in gene expression that persist through cell division or even from one generation to the next - and their role in evolution.
We are also interested in disease resistance in plants that does not involve RNA silencing. Specifically we are developing approaches for artificial evolution of disease resistance genes.
Our work uses both experimental and computational approaches based on Arabidopsis thaliana, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and tomato.