How plants coordinate responses to nutrient availability


Nitrogen (N) is a critical nutrient for plant growth and yield. While N supply in the form of fertilisers has been facilitated through the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process, over-application of has drastic ecological and environmental consequences. To develop high-yielding crops with less chemical inputs, we need to understand the networks of genes that control complex traits such as plant growth in response to N. However, the complexity of these networks has made them challenging to investigate using traditional genetic approaches. In recent work, we have we experimentally validated a subnetwork of transcription factors (TFs), gaining evidence for their role in coordinating the expression of a large number of genes involved in nitrate assimilation and plant growth.

This project will investigate the function of a key TF within that network, probing how it contributes to the regulation of growth in response to changes in nutrient availability. The project will progress in collaboration with research groups at the University of California and the University of Durham. The project will use a wide range of plant molecular biology, physiology, biochemical and bioinformatic techniques. All necessary training will be provided.


Gaudinier et al (2018) Transcriptional regulation of nitrogen-associated metabolism and growth. Nature. 563: 259– 264.

Alon (2012) Network motifs: theory and experimental approaches. Nat Rev Genet. 2007;8:450–461.

Vidal et al (2015) Transcriptional networks in the nitrate response of Arabidopsis thaliana. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 27:125-32.