Associate Professor Rob Ingle

Deputy Head of Department, Undergraduate Affairs

Plants are unable to escape from unfavourable conditions and so have evolved an array of molecular mechanisms to cope with biotic and abiotic stresses. My group uses a variety of genetic approaches to study these responses, focusing on the following areas:

Circadian clock regulation of immunity in plants | The circadian clock synchronizes biological processes with the external environment, ensuring that they occur at optimal times of the day. While the role of the clock in the anticipation of abiotic stress is well known, we have demonstrated that the clock also allows plants to anticipate attack by both bacterial and fungal pathogens. We are now seeking to understand the mechanism by which clock regulation of immunity is achieved.

Next-generation sequencing analysis of non-model plants Arabidopsis is a useful genetic workhorse but does not display some of the more extreme stress tolerance responses present in other species. The advent of NGS has facilitated the study of these plants, and I am engaged in two such projects. Firstly, we are using a comparative RNA-Seq approach to understand the molecular basis of nickel hyperaccumulation in the Southern African endemic Senecio coronatus, which is an unusual hyperaccumulator since some populations can accumulate Ni to >1% dry biomass, while adjacent populations cannot. In the second project, we are using RNA-seq and de novo genome assembly to understand the evolution of vegetative desiccation tolerance in Xerophyta resurrection plants, and its relationship to seed desiccation tolerance.