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Overview

Chloroplasts convert light into chemical energy fuelling life on earth. They contain their own expression apparatus and set of genes. Transplastomic technologies allow precise targeted integration of trait genes into chloroplasts without marker genes. Industrial and therapeutic proteins expressed in chloroplasts accumulate to extraordinarily high levels providing an attractive production platform for manufacture of high-value products for industry and health, which is both sustainable and carbon-neutral. Maternal inheritance of chloroplast genes prevents the pollen-mediated spread of transgenes providing a natural form of gene containment for the next generation of Biotech crops. Biotechnological applications of this new and exciting area of science are underpinned by fundamental research on the genes present in chloroplasts.

Biography

Current

The University of Manchester, UK

Previous

Genetics Laboratory, Dept of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, UK

EMBO Long Term Fellow. Dept. de Biologie Moleculaire, Geneva, Switzerland

PhD JIC, Norwich Research Triangle, UK

MA Biochemistry (with Chemical Pharmacology), University of Oxford, UK

Research interests

Biotechnology and Molecular Biology of Chloroplasts

Chloroplasts are members of the plastid family of organelles found in plant cells and are descended from ancient cyanobacteria. Plastids contain a small DNA genome (100-200 kbp) and a transcription-translation apparatus, which resembles that found in prokaryotes. Transplastomic technologies allow foreign genes to be transformed into plastids. The predominance of homologous DNA recombination in plastids allows foreign DNA to be targeted to specific sites in plastid DNA without bacterial vector sequences or selectable marker genes. These are highly desirable features characteristic of a new generation of "clean gene" transformation technologies. Clean gene technologies allow precise integration of genes of interest into the genomes of crops without undesirable DNA sequences such as antibiotic resistance genes. Removal of marker genes prevents the unnecessary release of antibiotic resistance genes into the environment. A further advantage of plastid transformation is that in many crops plastids are inherited from the maternal parent. Maternal inheritance enhances gene-containment in transplastomic plants by preventing the pollen-mediated spread of foreign genes. This will reduce, if not eliminate, the generation of weeds with foreign genes from transplastomic GM crops.

We are using plastid transformation in higher plants to study the function, regulation and maintenance of plastid genes. This basic research provides fundamental knowledge that underpins our applied projects on the expression of foreign genes in the plastids of crops and microalgae. The products of foreign genes accumulate to high levels when expressed in plastids (1-70% of soluble proteins). This makes the plastid a suitable site for expressing a wide range of foreign proteins. For example, pharmaceutical proteins, and proteins conferring herbicide and insect resistance. We are also transforming horticultural plants and crops with our vectors to increase the range of plant species amenable to plastid transformation. These projects will facilitate the widespread utilisation of transplastomic technologies in agriculture and plant biotechnology.

Links

Maternal Inheritance of wheat chloroplasts

Global Plant Council: synthetic biology of organelles

Unlocking the potential of Crop organelle genes

NAR_Breakthrough Article

NAR Breakthrough Article


Full publication list: http://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?user=olDHoKUAAAAJ&hl=en

Teaching

MSc in Biotechnology and Enterprise (Programme Director): this 1-year postgraduate course aims to provide students with scientific research skills and the business knowledge required to convert scientific discoveries into inventions and commercial products. The course is a research-based MSc degree programme combining taught (90 credits) and research focussed (90 credits) units. Unit Lead and Lecturer: BIOL60770, BIOL60771, BIOL60780

Cytoplasmic Genetics & Transplastomic technologies: I introduce students in the second and third year of their undergraduate degrees to the extra-nuclear DNA present in mitochondria and chloroplasts. LecturerBIOL21110, BIOL31501

PhD & MPhil research projects: I supervise postgraduate research projects on chloroplast biotechnology and the mechanisms underpinning the inheritance of chloroplast DNA. We study both crops & microalgae

MB ChB Tutor (Nutrition and Metabolism, Exam Lead 2008-2014)

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Biotechnology

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