My research interests center on the biochemical and molecular changes that underpin plant responses to environmental stress. My early research concerned the role of ethylene as a signalling molecule in abscission, and ABA in stomatal function. Now my particular interest is in the signalling molecules and systems that plants use in response to biotic stress. The work in my lab aims to use the understanding gained about these signalling processes to develop more sustainable ways to produce both agricultural and horticultural crops. Research is focused in three areas: Defence priming, VOCS as signals, and science policy.
a. Priming of plant defence
b. The role of volatile organic chemicals in plant defence
c. Novel methods for the early detection of plant biotic attack
Research is focused in three areas:
A. Priming of plant defence
Jasmonic acid is a signalling compound that increases in plants in response to herbivore attack. We have shown that applying jasmonic acid to seeds can ‘prime’ the plants that subsequently grow and develop, enabling them to respond more effectively to biotic attack (Worrall et al., 2012). Our current focus is to try to understand this priming process at the molecular level, using an array of molecular and biochemical techniques (BBSRC)
B. Biogenic volatile organic chemicals (VOCS) as signals of biotic stress
Using a transgenic approach, we have shown that herbivores can detect and respond to isoprene produced by plants (Laothawornkitkul et al., 2008), and can be deterred from feeding. Isoprene is a major VOC in the environment that many, but not all plants produce. We are interested in determining if the ability to detect and respond to isoprene is a widespread insect trait, and what the implications are for plant-insect interactions for plant species that do, and do not, produce isoprene (BBSRC DTG)
b) VOC profiles
We are also interested in determining the feasibility of using VOC profiles to identify early onset pathogen and herbivore attack, ultimately with a view developing both instruments and techniques that can be deployed in the field/glasshouse environment (BBSRC Industrial Case award, with Ionicon Analytic, Innsbruck)
C. Science policy
Research in collaboration with staff in the ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen) at Lancaster aims to examine the practical implications for environmental knowledge and life sciences policy, of commercialization processes within plant genomics research.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Journal article
Research output: Contribution to journal › Scientific review