Main Expertise

We translate fundamental work in Arabidopsis to crops and use systems biology methodologies to enhance our understanding and expedite breeding for resistance to environmental stress. We use ‘omics’ data to elucidate important aspects of plant responses to stress. For more information on expertise and Research areas contact Prof Alessandra Devoto.

Main expertise

  • Plant hormone biology, cell wall signalling, and molecular plant-microbe interaction
  • Mechanism of action of Jasmonates on growth during stress and defence, metabolite production and potential applications
  • Functional genomics, high-throughput transcriptomics, chromatin remodelling, bioinformatics, synthetic biology
  • Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (protein-protein interaction, signal transduction, and metabolic pathway alteration)

Our work is funded by:

Figure 9
Main MeJA effects on the cell cycle and endocycle.
© American Society of Plant Biologists

How distress signals affect growth in plants

Establish the link between jasmonate signalling cell cycle and differentiation.

Plant growth and therefore yield depends on both genetic and environmental conditions. Jasmonates act as distress signals, blocking cell cycle and slowing vegetative growth during defence. We use functional genomics to investigate the role of cell cycle regulators in JAs-mediated stress and development in plants.

For more information contact Prof Alessandra Devoto

Figure 7
MeJA contributes to the regulation of the trade-off between defence mode and plant growth.
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company

Jasmonates and Histone deacetylase 6 activate Arabidopsis genome-wide histone acetylation and methylation during the early acute stress response

© The Author(s) 2022. This article is published with open access.

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Figure 1
Improvement in sugar release from cell walls after pretreatment with Phanerochaete chrysosporium.
© The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access

Engineering Plant Cell Walls to improve energy release and biomass production

Improving key traits for the production of biomass and biofuels by tailoring the composition of plant cell wall polymers.

This research aims to identify novel plant varieties more prone to sustainable fuel and energy production. Published work includes the demonstration of improved saccharification of tobacco, Arabidopsis and wheat lines down-regulated for carbon flux into the phenylpropanoid pathway, xylan, lignification-specific peroxidase and pectins and the use of white rot fungi to enhance sustainable bioenergy production.

For more information contact Dr Alessandra Devoto

Figure 3
Effects of jasmonates (JAs) on plant and cancer cells.
© The Authors (2007). Journal compilation ©New Phytologist

Biotechnology for health and energy production

Jasmonates are inducers of plant specialized metabolism. We use genomics, biochemistry and bioinformatics to manipulate natural compounds to obtain therapeutic drugs.

Novel platform for plant-based natural products.In my laboratory we developed a novel functional bioassay to produce JAs derivatives and to test the effectiveness on animal cells. Such multidisciplinary approach integrates bioactivity analyses and scale-up activities encompassing plant biochemistry and animal cell biology. We have active collaboration with biopharma industry, and we work with model, crop and medicinal plants.

For more information contact Prof Alessandra Devoto

Jasmonates induce Arabidopsis bioactivities selectively inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells through CDC6 and mTOR

Our work suggests a universal role for MeJA-treatment of Arabidopsis in altering the DNA replication regulator CDC6, supporting conservation, across kingdoms, of cell cycle regulation, through the crosstalk between the mechanistic target of rapamycin, mTOR, and JAs. This study has important implications for the identification of metabolites with anti-cancer bioactivities in plants with no known medicinal pedigree and it will have applications in developing disease treatments.

© 2020 The Authors, New Phytologist _ 2020 New Phytologist Foundation;

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Exploiting cell suspension cultures for biotechnological applications

Figure 1. Experimental scheme of the direct stable transformation of Arabidopsis Ler cell suspension cultures. Bio-protocol 11(01): e3880. DOI:10.21769/BioProtoc.3880. Copyright © 2021 The Authors; exclusive licensee Bio-protocol LLC.

Figure 1
Tobacco, alfalfa and poplar: do these model plants hold the answer to efficient biofuel production?
© 2011 Society of Chemical Industry,

Exploiting plant and microorganism genetics to develop a sustainable passive treatment solution to enhance crop value, increase on-farm renewable energy production and recycling of nutrients.

We have identified key enzymes regulating important steps in the quest to turn waste such as scrap wood and straw into fuel. Industrial and international collaborations have been set up to address the main challenges of the UK strategy for Agricultural Technology for advancing sustainable intensification of agriculture whilst supporting Government renewable energy targets.

For more information contact Dr Alessandra Devoto

Construction of high-order gene regulatory networks for plant responses to stresses

Plant responses to stress can be viewed as being orchestrated through a network that integrates signal pathways characterised by the production of JA, SA, ethylene and to a lesser extent auxin and gibberellin. Large-scale genomic analyses have identified hundreds of genes that are differentially regulated by environmental stresses. Their complex expression patterns suggest that stress tolerance is controlled by a complicated gene regulatory network. The next steps towards understanding stress biology at the systems level are reconstructing the network and then verifying the roles the various genes play. We use transcriptomics, proteomics, and computational biology to model and infer signalling networks.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the complexity of JA-mediated regulation of plant responses to environmental cues.
© 2019 Annual Plant Reviews online and the Publisher John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

In collaboration with Professor Alberto Paccanaro, Department of Computer Science, Royal Holloway University of London and with funding from BBSRC and Royal Holloway, through the Agnes Grace Ellen Endowment, we have developed methods for: Computational Selection of Transcriptomics Experiments Improves Guilt-by-Association Analyses

[PLoS ONE, vol. 7, iss. 8, p. 39681, 2012]

For more information contact Prof Alessandra Devoto