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Home > Research > Researchers > Stephen Roberts
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Current Postgraduate Research Students

Stephen Roberts supervises 1 postgraduate research students. Some of the students have produced research profiles, these are listed below:

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Dr Stephen Roberts

Lecturer

Stephen Roberts

Furness Building

Lancaster University

Bailrigg

Lancaster LA1 4YG

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 1524 593145

Location:

Research overview

My research expertise is the application of electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques to understand the regulation of ion transport across the biological membranes of plant and fungal cells. I currently use the filamentous fungus, Aspergillus nidulans and the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. My research interests have more recently focussed on anion efflux and Ca2+ influx across the plasma membrane of fungal cells towards identifying and evaluating potential new drug targets.

More recently I have collaborated with collegues in the Physics Department (Lancaster University) to investigate the role of transmembrane voltage in signal transduction.

Research Interests

The major research interests of my group concern the regulation of ion transport across the biological membranes of plant and fungal cells. Current areas of interest include:

Organic acid secretion and nutrient acquisition

Organic acid secretion from higher plant roots and fungi into the soil solution plays an important role in nutrient acquisition and metal ion detoxification. Surprisingly, the pathways by which organic acids cross the plasma membrane of cells are not well characterised and little is known of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the exudation of organic acids. We are currently characterising anion channel activity in Aspergillus nidulans and the root of Arabidopsis. We have identified a novel organic acid efflux channels in the plasma membrane of Arabidopsis epidermal root cells (e.g. Diatloff et al., 2004) and Fungi (e.g. Roberts et al. 2013). The regulation of these channels suggest that these transporters probably play a role in phosphate acquisition and other nutrient acquisition.

Calcium signalling in filamentous fungi

Fungi are a diverse but discrete group of organisms with a myriad of activities, many of which impact both directly and indirectly on mankind. Thus understanding how these organisms respond and adapt to their environment is of fundamental importance. Cytosolic Ca2+ has been established as a ubiquitous intracellular signal molecule, essential for the transduction of a wide variety of environmental stimuli in eukaryotic cells. However, despite a strong body of evidence showing key roles for Ca2+ signal transduction in filamentous fungi, our understanding of Ca2+ signalling in these organisms is not well developed. One of the main reasons for this is our current ignorance of Ca2+-permeable channel activity (which is responsible for mediating cytosolic Ca2+ signalling events) in filamentous fungi. Work is ongoing to address this fundamental gap in our knowledge; namely, to identify and functionally characterise Ca2+ permeable channels in filamentous fungi. This work is taking advantage of recent developments in fungal genomics, initially leading to the identification of a number of candidate genes that are likely to encode Ca2+ permeable ion channels (and thus play key roles in Ca2+ signalling) in the model filamentous fungus, Aspergillus nidulans. A multidisciplinary approach, combining a range of molecular biological and cell biological techniques, is being employed.

 

Current Teaching

I am the Director of Studies for Biological Sciences Programmes.

Currently I teach on the following modules:

BIOL121 Impact of Microbes: I cover Viruses and Fungi.

BIOL201 Biochemistry: I cover Citric Acid Cycle, Amino Acid Metabolism and Bioenergetics

BIOL211 Cell Biology: I cover Membrane Transport (Ion Channels, Carriers and Pumps)

BIOL302 Signalling Transport and Disease: I build on second year material and focuss on ion channels in human physiology and discuss ion channel diseases.

BIOL387 Bioscience Research Project: Student projects in Cell Biology with a focus on Ion Channels.

BIOL390 Bioscience Literature Review: literature reviews in microbiology and cell biology

 

Additional Information

Awards/Grants

2000: Four year Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellowship “The role of plasma membrane ion channels in fungal growth - potential targets for fungicides”. (£311,656).
2001: Three year BBSRC grant “Release of organic acid to the rhizosphere: a role for anion channels”. (£209,216).
2001: BBSRC Committee Studentship “Anion transport in Arabidopsis root”
2003: Two year BBSRC grant “Developing Pichia pastoris as a heterologous expression system for ion transporters”. (£105,848).
2004: Two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award funded by DTI and Micap Limited to develop novel encapsulation technology to protect and control the release of active ingredients from yeast. (£135,323).

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