Professor Jerry Roberts
Professor of Plant Biology
Jerry's main interest focuses on how the manipulation of plant development can optimise crop performance. Current research areas include:
- Dissecting the molecular and cellular events regulating cell separation processes in plants
- Understanding the linkages between assimilate partitioning and seed development
- Unravelling the responses of plant organs to gravity
- Using novel imaging systems to visualise root growth and development
The main focus of my research group is to understand the mechanisms responsible for regulating cell separation in plants. This process is responsible for the shedding of plant organs, the softening… read more
The main focus of my research group is to understand the mechanisms responsible for regulating cell separation in plants. This process is responsible for the shedding of plant organs, the softening of fruit, the dehiscence of anthers and pods, and the emergence of lateral roots. In addition to having inherent scientific interest cell separation is also of interest to both agriculturalists and horticulturalists as it can affect both the quantity and quality of the yield produced by a crop. We are using a number of strategies to unravel the events that lead to floral organ abscission in the model plant Arabidopsis. By tagging separating cells with a GFP marker we have generated a transcript profile of separating cells to identify mRNAs that are specifically expressed in the abscission zone. These include: enzymes that may degrade the cell wall, pathogenesis-related proteins that protect the exposed tissues from invasion by bacteria and fungi, and polypeptides that synthesize wax and new cell wall material to seal the scar tissue. We are also studying a mutant of Arabidopsis that fails to shed its floral organs. This mutant, termed hawaiian skirt (hws), has been characterized in detail and the HWS gene found to encode a novel F box protein. Current work is centred on identifying the substrate that is targeted for degradation by the HS protein.
During the course of studies on pod dehiscence in Arabidopsis we identified a gene encoding a response regulator that was up-regulated during silique development. Arabidopsis has a large family of response regulators some of which have been shown to play a role in cytokinin-induced cell signalling. The response regulator that we are studying (ARR22) is specifically expressed at the seed:funiculus junction and has been shown to be up-regulated by wounding. Current studies are focused on identifying its role and the proteins that it may interact with during seed development.
Members of the lab:
Hongyang Yu (China Scholarship) - The role of the F box gene HWS in Arabidopsis and rice development
Thomas Denyer - The role of micro RNAs in Arabidopsis lateral root development
Chelsea Snell (joint DTP studentship with University of Reading) - Response regulators and seed development in Brassica species
Iffah Mohammed Nawi (University of Reading) - Response regulators in tomato and fruit development
Emma Bennett (University of Reading with Tozers) - Manipulation of assimilate partitioning in Arabidopsis and Brassica species