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Department of Biochemistry


The extracellular matrix in plants – understanding cell wall biosynthesis

Plant cells change their surface dramatically during growth and differentiation. The extracellular matrix of plants, the plant cell wall, can both create signals and moderate the response to neighbouring cells of the plant. The strength and plasticity of plant cells are also determined by the components of the cell wall.

Our research is focused on understanding the biosynthesis and function of polysaccharide components of the plant cell wall. The cell wall polysaccharides are synthesized by an amazing variety of enzymes in the Golgi apparatus. Despite these polysaccharides being some of the most abundant on earth, and having enormous nutritional, agricultural, and industrial importance, surprisingly little is known about the genes and enzymes that carry out the synthesis. Crucial players in polysaccharide synthesis are sugar nucleotide transporters and glycosyltransferases in the Golgi lumen.

We are studying the function of Golgi proteins involved in polymerization of sugars to produce the cell wall polysaccharides using functional genomic approaches. In order to identify candidate genes we use a combination of bioinformatic and proteomic approaches. By studying the composition of the extracellular matrix and the structural changes in specific polysaccharide components of mutant Arabidopsis plants, we are bit by bit deciphering the role of the individual proteins. Biochemical assays allow us to investigate the activities of individual proteins, complementing our understanding of gene function.

The major focus of our research is the biosynthesis of xylans in different plant species. However, a variety of other projects are ongoing in the lab, such as the structural analysis of arabinogalactans. Our research underpins development of renewable materials, such as fuels from plants.

Lab members: Nadine Anders, Wendy Gibson, Federico Lopez Hernandez, Jan Lyczakowski, Henry Temple, Oliver Terrett, Theodora Tryfona, Joel Wurman Rodrich, Li Yu, Xiaolan Yu

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Bioenergy initiative

Key publications:

1. Simmons TJ, Mortimer JC, Bernardinelli OD, Pöppler AC, Brown SP, deAzevedo ER, Dupree R, Dupree P. (2016) Folding of xylan onto cellulose fibrils in plant cell walls revealed by solid-state NMR. Nat Commun. 21;7:13902.

2. Zhang Y, Nikolovski N, Sorieul M, Vellosillo T, McFarlane HE, Dupree R, Kesten C, Schneider R, Driemeier C, Lathe R, Lampugnani E, Yu X, Ivakov A, Doblin MS, Mortimer JC, Brown SP, Persson S, Dupree P. (2016) Golgi-localized STELLO proteins regulate the assembly and trafficking of cellulose synthase complexes in Arabidopsis. Nat Commun. 9;7:11656

3. Bromley JR, Busse-Wicher M, Tryfona T, Mortimer JC, Zhang Z, Brown D, Dupree P. (2013) GUX1 and GUX2 glucuronyltransferases decorate distinct domains of glucuronoxylan with different substitution patterns. Plant J. 74(3):423–434.

4. Anders N, Wilkinson MD, Lovegrove A, Freeman J, Tryfona T, Pellny TK, Weimar T, Mortimer JC, Stott K, Baker JM, Defoin-Platel M, Shewry PR, Dupree P, Mitchell RAC. (2012) Glycosyl transferases in family 61 mediate arabinofuranosyl transfer onto xylan in grasses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 17;109(3):989-93.

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+44 (0)1223 333340



+44 (0)1223 333664