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Professor Claire Grierson

Root-Soil Cohesion / Plant and Microbial Cell Biology

I have spent many years researching development and differentiation - how molecules and cells become organised, especially during root development in Arabidopsis seedlings. Topics have included the role of auxin in plant cell growth, and the subcellular networks that drive tip growth in root hair cells. For more on these topics please visit our wiki. We are now applying our knowledge of plant roots to discover how roots prevent soil erosion, bearing in mind that human activity has already eroded a quarter of the vegetated land on Earth. We are also discovering how patterns of molecules and cells might be controlled. As a member of BrisSynBio and Bristol Director of the SynBio CDT I am also involved in research aimed at making the engineering of plants and cell populations more reliable.

Lay summary of research interests

We know that life is the product of complicated physical and chemical interactions between molecules, but how do these produce growth, and how is this growth controlled so that it happens at precisely the right times and in the right places? We are working to answer these questions using plants and microbes because it is easier, technically and ethically, to do powerful, informative experiments with these organisms than with animals. We often identify new molecules that are important for growth in many organisms. We are also finding out how interactions between molecules control growth. Most recently we have receved funding from the Leverhulme Trust to investigate how plant roots prevent soil erosion. This is potentially very important as we have already eroded at least a quarter of the vegetated land on earth. Our results are potentially relevant to a wide range of applications from agriculture to human health and we are exploring potential agricultural applications.

iGEM

I co-founded the University of Bristol iGEM team with Mario Di Bernardo. Each spring a joint undergraduate and postgraduate Synthetic Biology workshop is held in preparation for iGEM. The team then works through the summer on a competition entry for the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). So far we have been very successful, winning the Best Model prize in 2008 and 2009, gold medals in 2009 and 2010, and winning Best Food or Energy Project and third place overall in 2010. Projects have included engineering bacteria to work as a team Bristol iGEM 2008, Bristol iGEM 2009, and beads containing fluorescent bacteria that are designed to make agriculture less environmentally damaging Bristol iGEM 2010.

Network Evolution

  • Interested in how networks evolve?
  • Want to understand how the structure of a network affects its function?
  • Try our dynamical network simulator at http://www.netevo.org

Research keywords

  • Arabidopsis
  • root hair development
  • plant cell polarity
  • auxin
  • root hair tip growth
  • root soil cohesion
  • gene networks
  • synthetic biology
  • interdisciplinary research

Research methods

  • molecular genetics
  • functional genomics
  • live cell imaging
  • computational modelling and simulation
  • mechanical measurements
  • water erosion assays
  • uprooting assays

Research findings

Which Plant Proteins are Palmitoylated and Why

Hemsley, PA, Weimar, T, Kathryn, L, Dupree, P & Grierson, CS 2013, ‘A proteomic approach identifies many novel palmitoylated proteins in Arabidopsis’. New Phytologist, vol 197., pp. 805-814

 

Why We Need Plant Scientists 

Grierson, C. S., Barnes, S. R., Chase, M. W., Clarke, M., Grierson, D., Edwards, K. J., Jellis, G. J., Jones, J. D., Knapp, S., Oldroyd, G., Poppy, G., Temple, P., Williams, R. and Bastow, R. (2011), One hundred important questions facing plant science research. New Phytologist192: 6–12. doi: 10.1111

 

Understanding synthetic oscillators

Purcell, O, Savery, N, Grierson, C & Bernardo, MD 2010, ‘A comparative analysis of synthetic genetic oscillators’. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, vol 7., pp. 1503 - 1524

 

Relating Network Structure and Function

Gorochowski, T. E., di Bernardo, M. & Grierson, C. S.  2010,  'Evolving enhanced topologies for the synchronization of dynamical complex networks'. Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics. 81, 5, p. - 13 p.056212

 

Understanding Plant Cell Polarity

I presented our findings on how molecular interactions generate polar growth in plant cells at GARNet 2011 in Cambridge.

You can watch the video (22 minutes) here http://www.lancs.ac.uk/other/bsajxb/JXB/videos.htm