Molecular networks underpinning root development in Arabidopsis and crops

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences


Control of plant root architecture is critical to ensure plant survival in the face of changing environmental conditions. The Coates lab has shown that an Arabidopsis transcription factor, AtMYB93, which is localised to just a few specific cells in the endodermis of the root, regulates root branching, or lateral root development (Gibbs et al 2014 New Phytologist). AtMYB93 expression is induced by the plant hormones auxin and abscisic acid, and is also under environmental control. AtMYB93 negatively regulates root branching, making it the first auxin-induced negative regulator of lateral root development and suggesting that it is part of a negative feedback loop that ensures that a new root is only made when absolutely required.
Preliminary bioinformatic analysis suggests that AtMYB93 is intimately involved with upregulating suberin biosynthesis. Suberin is localized in specific areas of the endodermis, a cell layer recently implicated in lateral root development, and AtMYB93 shows similar endodermal localization. Our preliminary data shows that Atmyb93 mutants have complex altered responses to abiotic stress, including salt stress and sulphur deprivation. The exact mechanism of this is unknown, but likely involves changes in barrier properties within the root due to changes in suberin distribution, and subsequent changes in shoot physiology.
The overarching aims of this proposal are (i) to understand how AtMYB93 performs its function at a molecular level, (ii) to understand how altering AtMYB93 affects root barrier properties and hence whole-plant physiology, and (iii) to determine whether MYB93 homologues in crops are good targets for manipulation of root development for crop improvement.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M01116X/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1644066 Studentship BB/M01116X/1 05/10/2015 30/09/2019 Clare Clayton
Description Presentation and discussion with older members of the community interested in a talk about GM food and food security 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Prepared and delivered a presentation and demonstration (DNA extraction from strawberries, also took Arabidopsis prop as many people assume work is done directly in crops) to older and elderly members of the public on the wider themes of my PhD project (transgenic plants/GM crops and food security). Afterwards there was a highly engaging discussion with the audience about the themes of the talk. The audience felt the event helped better inform their opinions, in particular regarding GM food. This event was carried out as a result of receiving training as part of a PhD module on public engagement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description ThinkTank "meet a scientist" event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Partipitated in a "meet a scientist" event at the ThinkTank museum with other biology PhD students from the UK and Europe. Stalls with different activities on the theme of DNA were set up for children and their parents/guardians to engage with. I was on a stall doing DNA extractions from strawberries using household items. Spoke to children and their parents/guardians about what DNA is, got them to help with the extraction, and explained how and why DNA is analysed in the lab. Tried to engage them in a fun, interesting, child friendly way to enthuse them about science and research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019