Crop Science Centre - Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Jumping genes help AM fungi evolve

Jumping genes help AM fungi evolve

News
AM fungi

Alexandra Dallaire of the Gurdon Institute and Crop Science Centre researcher Uta Paszkowski are authors on recent research proposing that well controlled ‘jumping’ of DNA sequences within the genome might contribute to AM fungi genomic evolution. The research supports a model in which these ‘jumping’ genes, also referred to as transposable elements, shape the genome of AM fungi, while DNA methylation and small RNA–mediated silencing keep their overproliferation in check.

AM fungi have long been considered as ancient asexuals. Long-term clonal evolution would be remarkable for a eukaryotic lineage and suggests the importance of alternative mechanisms to promote genetic variability facilitating adaptation in these at least 450 million years old organisms.

To view the paper follow this link https://genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2021/11/12/gr.275752.121.abstract

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Bill Bishop

Bill Bishop


My work centres on pre-symbiotic signalling between rice and mycorrhizal fungi. During this MPhil project, I aim to characterise proteins that interact with rice’s chitin elicitor receptor kinase 1 (CERK1) – a multifunctional receptor known to regulate symbiotic, immunity and developmental responses. During my undergraduate studies at the Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge I worked within the Molecular Physiology group to develop and apply a computational pipeline for the identification of mechanisms able to drive tissue level-specific gene expression.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

New research will help strategies to control one of the world most damaging nematodes

New research will help strategies to control one of the world most damaging nematodes

News
Nematode

In research published this week in PLoS Pathogens, scientists in the plant-parasite interactions group used targeted transcriptomics to predict and validate the most comprehensive set of effectors for Radopholus similis, which is considered to be among the top 10 most damaging plant-parasitic nematodes in the world. In addition to enhancing understanding of the mechanisms of parasitism employed by migratory nematodes, these findings will allow the development of effector gene targeted strategies to control this economically important, and yet often neglected, nematode parasite.

Contrary to long-held assumptions that migratory nematodes are less specialized plant-parasitic nematodes, the team showed that the repertoire of effectors of this migratory nematode is complex and novel. Among the 30 new effector genes identified, 19 were "pioneers". The identification of a promoter motif for a significant sub-set of these effectors suggests a concerted regulation of these genes by the nematode, and therefore an additional attractive target for their control: a so-called virulence master regulator.

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Christian Rogers

Christian Rogers


For the past 10 years Christian has managed the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored programme Engineering the Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa led from the University of Cambridge linking ten institution around the world focussed on delivering a new generation of more sustainable crops less dependent on fertiliser inputs due to enhanced symbiosis with soil microorganisms. Christian has developed a model of centralised crop engineering platforms spanning construct design and assembly, transformation, genetics, characterisation and field testing.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Doris Ablinsky

Doris Ablinsky


Doris is working as the Barley Genetics and Phenotyping Manager at the CSC. Before taking up this post she was working as a postdoctoral researcher in the ENSA (Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa) project at the University of Cambridge. Prior to this she was doing research at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan. She gained her PhD degree in Genetics from the University of Basel, Switzerland carrying out her research project at the Friedrich-Miescher-Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI).

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Darius Zarrabian

Darius Zarrabian


Darius is a PhD student in the Oldroyd group, investigating the impact of nutrient levels on symbiotic permissibility in barley and the mechanisms by which this can be overridden for the potential of more sustainable fertiliser use in the future.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Important discovery will facilitate future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals

Important discovery will facilitate future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals

News
Nodules

New discoveries, published in the journal Science on October 29th, show how legume cells in the nodule transition into the nitrogen-fixing state, control multiple different mechanisms that support bacteria inside the nodules and the enzyme nitrogenase necessary for nitrogen fixation. Legumes engage with nitrogen fixing bacteria in nodules, which provide a specilised environment for nitrogen fixation.

These discoveries were facilitated by the first detection of the nodulation master regulator protein NODULE INCEPTION (NIN), that controls many aspects of nodulation and now is shown to also control this transition into nitrogen fixation.

The work provides an important advance in understanding the symbiotic relationship between plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria and facilitates future engineering of nitrogen fixation into cereals, dispensing the need for fertilising cereal crops by enabling them to fix their own nitrogen.

 First described in 1999, NIN is essential for developing a new root organ, called a nodule, where symbiotic bacteria fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. Although it has been studied for two decades, the NIN protein has been difficult to detect, and it remains unknown how NIN coordinates multiple stages of nodule formation. 

The first author, Jian Feng, said, “Solving the problem of how NIN could be detected revealed surprising results about the processing of NIN, that explained how this protein controls many different aspects of nodulation”.

Proteolytic processing of NIN appears to allow the protein to activate processes associated with nitrogen fixation and this late processing of NIN allows the protein to have different early and late functions in establishing nitrogen-fixing nodules. 

The corresponding author, Giles Oldroyd, said, “We are striving to transfer the capability to fix nitrogen to cereal crops. Understanding how nitrogen fixation is induced in the legume nodule is important in helping us transfer this process to cereals”. 

This work was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as Engineering the Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa (ENSA) project; the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; and the Gatsby Foundation.

Read the full article by following this link https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abg2804

 

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Edwin Jarratt Barnham

Edwin Jarratt Barnham


Edwin is a PhD student working with Giles Oldroyd to study the mechanisms by which plants develop mutualistic interactions with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Edwin received his BA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. He completed his final year in the Department of Plant Sciences where he worked in John Carr’s lab, studying plant defences to viruses. During this time he also worked with Julia Davies to study the function of plant cyclic nucleotide-gated channels.

Publications

Crop Science Centre

Driven by impact, fuelled by excellence

Tak Lee

Tak Lee


Tak received his Ph.D. at the Yonsei University, South Korea, studying biological functional gene networks in plant species. He moved to Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University for a Postdoctoral research position with Professor Giles Oldroyd, later moving on to the Crop Science Center. Tak’s research is focused on dissecting the genetic networks of model legumes in comparison with cereal crops during symbiosis with microorganisms via high-throughput transcriptomics, genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatic analysis. 

Publications

Sustainable food production for everyone

The Crop Science Centre is a coalition between the University of Cambridge, Department of Plant Sciences, and NIAB. This coalition focuses on translational research in crops with real-world impact. We combine the diverse skills and expertise of the University and NIAB, providing an environment for research excellence with the capability to apply discoveries to crop improvement in the field.

Our research is interdisciplinary and of global relevance. We strive to improve both staple crops such as maize, wheat and rice, but also the specific crops of relevance to small-holder farmers, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Centre provides leadership in crop sciences, with a creative and dynamic research culture, motivated by improvement of agriculture for the betterment of society.

Our mission

At the Crop Science Centre, we are generating crop plants that deliver sufficient food for everyone in a sustainable way

  • We deliver agricultural impact, using excellence in research
  • We strive for sustainability, reducing agricultural reliance on chemical inputs
  • We foster equality, valuing all members of our research community
  • We believe in equity, ensuring even the world’s poorest farmers can grow enough food

Years of research has provided a deep understanding of how plants function, creating opportunities to transform the way we produce our food.  I am motivated to improve the sustainability and the equity of food production worldwide

Professor Giles Oldroyd,
CSC Director

Professor Giles Oldroyd

“At the Crop Science Centre we have the scientific breadth and track record to rapidly respond to one of the grand challenges of our time: growing enough nutritious food for an increasing population while reducing inputs and green house emissions.”

Professor Mario Caccamo,
CEO and Director of NIAB

Professor Mario Caccamo

“We envisage that new CSC crop technologies will enable higher crop yields and lower environmental impact for crop-based food production – as well as contributing to improved dietary health.”

Sir David Baulcombe,
Royal Society Professor

Sir David Baulcombe