How do circadian rhythms shape the responses of plants to climate change?


Living organisms can tell the time. This is because they contain circadian clocks, which produce a cellular measure of the time of day. In plants including crops, circadian rhythms are of crucial importance because they impact growth rates, metabolism, developmental programmes and stress tolerance. Therefore, circadian regulation has an incredibly pervasive influence upon plant life that affects crop performance. We need to know how circadian rhythms adapt plants to their naturally fluctuating environments, to take advantage of the incredible recent progress in understanding the molecular structure of circadian clocks. We do not know how environmental alterations that are being caused by climate change will affect the important contribution that circadian regulation makes to plant performance in nature.

This pioneering PhD project will contribute to these major questions by investigating how future climate scenarios affect plant physiology and development through their effects upon circadian regulation. It will provide training in laboratory-based molecular genetics research with the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, in quantitative analysis of circadian time-series data using new approaches and computational tools, and offers the possibility of field-based studies of circadian rhythms. The novel biological insights from the PhD will help to better understand how plants
respond and adapt to changes in temperature, and contribute to the future development of crops that are more resilient to climate change. This project will be based at the John Innes Centre and combines the expertise of the Dodd lab in circadian regulation and environmental signalling, with the Penfield lab in developmental responses to temperature, to enable a new area of innovative research.


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Belbin FE, Hall GJ, Jackson AB, Schanschieff FE, Archbald G, Formstone A, Dodd AN (2019). Plant circadian rhythms regulate the effectiveness of a glyphosate-based herbicide. Nature Communications 10, article 3704.

Frank A, Matiolli CC, Viana AJC, Hearn TJ, Kusakina J, Belbin FE, Newman DW, Yochikawa A, Cano- Ramirez DL, Chembath A, Cragg-Barber K, Haydon MJ, Hotta CT, Vincentz M, Webb AAR, Dodd AN (2018). Circadian entrainment in Arabidopsis by the sugar-responsive transcription factor bZIP63. Current Biology 28, 2597-2606.