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Molecular mechanisms of plant developmental plasticity

Gifford lab plant scienceGifford group members at work in the lab

Dr Miriam Gifford

Group Leader

miriam dot gifford at warwick dot ac dot uk

Peter Morrison

Synthetic Biology CDT PhD student P dot Morrison at warwick dot ac dot uk
Tim Coker

EPSRC Systems Biology PhD student

T dot L dot R dot Coker at warwick dot ac dot uk

Mingkee Achom

MIBTP Life Sciences PhD student

M dot Achom at warwick dot ac dot uk

Matt Teft

MIBTP Life Sciences PhD student

M dot Teft at warwick dot ac dot uk

Liam Walker

MIBTP Life Sciences pre-PhD student

Liam dot Walker at warwick dot ac dot uk

We are part of the School of Life Sciences & Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology.
Nodulation: legumes can work with symbiotic bacteria to gain nitrogen, why can't all plants?

Unlike most plants, legumes (such as peas and beans) are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen (nodulation), so break the agricultural dependency on expensive and environmentally costly nitrogen fertilisers. If we understand the molecular basis of why legumes nodulate but other plants don't we could improve nitrogen-use efficiency in our crops. This would improve food security, a major research priority and one within the agri-tech strategy remit.

What contribution does each cell type of the root make to the whole root response to nitrogen?

We use Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) combined with genomics to measure the gene expression of all regulatory pathways and interpret them in the context of root phenotypes. This is critical since nodules develop from a specific root cell type and root environmental responses have a high degree of cell specificity. We also want to investigate how rhizobial responses (nodulation) intersect with responses to other mutualists in the rhizosphere to improve plant productivity.

Molecules that work in specific cell types can help to trigger specialised responses - synthetic biology.

Application of cell type analysis can help distinguish genes that act in specific locations and under specific conditions. We can use this to predict which promoters and genes could be engineered to enable new functions, including altered plant disease responses and altered mutualistic responses (Theme 4 in the Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre).

Lab Alumni:

MScs and MBios:

Will Macnair (Systems Biology MSc project student) - PhD with Prof. Manfred Claassen (University of Zurich)

Waqar Yousaf (MBio project student) - PGCE study and Teacher training


Dr Roxanna Bonyadi (Chancellor's International Scholarship PhD student)

Dr Anthony Carter (EPSRC Systems Biology PhD student) - Statistician in the Civil Service (UK)

Jo Hulsmans (Cypress Diagnostics, Belgium)

Research staff:

Dr Zennia Paniwynk (Defra Post-doc) - Scientist at Quanta Fluid Solutions (UK)

Dr Jesper Grønlund (BBSRC Post-doc) - Gene Discovery Manager at Advanced Technologies Cambridge (BAT, UK)

Dr Sajjad Awan (Defra Post-doc) - Post-doc with Prof. Bill Finch-Savage (Life Sciences, Warwick, UK)

Sanjeev Kumar (BBSRC Research technician) - Technician with Prof. David Twell (Leicester, UK), now at VWR

Dr Sally Adams (Post-doc) - Post-doc with Dr Andre Pires da Silva (Life Sciences, Warwick, UK)

Dr Ying Wang (BBSRC Post-doc) - Post-doc (Germany)

Dr. Dhaval Patel (BBSRC Post-doc) - Scientist at Azotic Technologies Ltd (Nottingham, UK)

Dr. Dafyd Jenkins (BBSRC Post-doc) - Data scientist at TATA (Coventry, UK)

Latest info on our research:

New BBSRC-funded grant on plant-microbe cosymbiosis! 

Launch of WISB: plant synthetic biology research including insights gained from cell type analysis.

Collaborative PhD studentship with Lionel Dupuy & Nicola Holden at James Hutton: Growing Rhizoplanes

Hpa oomycete infecting Arabidopsis leaf - Hpa haustoria in cells are stained blue (Tim Coker - Frontiers in Plant Science paper):Hpa infection

Our New Phytologist Cell type specific proteomics workshop:

Protoplast generation workshop

WATCH our JOVE cell sorting video!

Gifford lab at work

Hpa infection of Arabidopsis cotyledons marked by GFP

Arabidopsis ready for sorting: