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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Can we re-engineer a major metabolic pathway in a higher eukaryote? From functional genomics in models to synthetic biology in crops Seminar

13:00 - 14:00
10 December 2013
Building 85 Room 2207

For more information regarding this seminar, please telephone Kim Lipscombe on 02380 597747 or email .

Event details

James' interests span the fields of plant molecular biology, biochemistry and whole plant physiology. The focus of his research is understanding the molecular and biochemical basis for the circadian control of primary metabolic pathways in plants. In particular, he studies the molecular basis for the circadian regulation of Crassulacean acid metabolism and has interests in plant responses to abiotic stress. He also has interests in the development of novel non-food crops as biofuel feedstocks suited to marginal lands and more broadly in the role of plant science in the response to the global food security crisis.

In the face of climate change and the current global food security crisis, there is an urgent and pressing need to develop novel crops that are more water use efficient. Most major food and biomass feedstock crops perform a form of photosynthesis known as C3, which is comparatively poor at conserving water. A diverse range of species from desert and semi-arid environments have evolved a photosynthetic adaptation known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which increase water use efficiency between 10- and 20-fold. We are using next generation sequencing technologies to decode the genomes and transcriptomes of several CAM species. This has allowed us access to the genes responsible for the high water use efficiency of these plants. We are functionally characterising the genes in a number of ways, including switching them off in a model CAM species and switching them on in C3 species. Our long term goal is to develop molecular tools to underpin the development of existing CAM crops as bioenergy feedstocks, and also the development of re-engineered C3 crops that can use CAM to sustain their growth and yield during prolonged periods of drought. This talk will describe how we have decoded several CAM genomes and transcriptomes and how we are using this knowledge to understand the minimal set of genes required for optimised CAM. In particular, I will describe our work to understand the regulatory pathways that link the central circadian clock to the optimisation of CAM photosynthesis relative to the daily light/ dark cycle.

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Speaker information

Dr James Hartwell, University of Liverpool. Institute of Integrative Biology

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