Dr Wang graduated in Biology at Queen Elizabeth College, London and went on to do a PhD on cytokinins and apical dominance with Roger Horgan and Philip Wareing at UCW Aberystwyth. He moved on to a Personal SERC Fellowship at the Botany Department in Leicester working with Herbert Street on cytokinins in tissue cultures and then to Leeds to work with David Cove on the moss, Physcomitrella patens before joining the Centre as a group leader in 1979 where he has established research on legumes especially seed development in pea and carbon allocation to nodules in the model, Lotus japonicus. He also runs the TILLING platform (RevGenUK) and oversees Metabolite Services for the Centre. He is a Reader in Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia.
My Research Areas
My group is involved in research on the model legume, Lotus japonicus, in collaboration with Martin Parniske at LMU, Munich, and Cathie Martin and Alison Smith here at JIC. We are concentrating on carbon partitioning, especially mutants of sucrose and starch metabolism, and on secondary metabolism (natural products), both benign and toxic, using our TILLING platform. We also operate metabolomics as a platform technology for the Centre and use it as a discovery tool for all our research.
We have screened for mutants in primary metabolism, notably in sucrose and starch metabolism (e.g. Vriet et al, 2010). Our focus in this area is on the metabolism of sucrose and starch especially as it this relates to nodule metabolism. Sucrose can be broken down in plants via sucrose synthases or invertases. We have shown in Lotus japonicus that sucrose synthase is essential for nodule function (Horst et al, 2007) and invertase cannot substitute for its activity in the cytosol. In contrast, cytosolic invertases have a profound effect on plant growth and development (Welham et al, 2009). Mutants of the major isoform affect both root and aerial parts of the plant through an effect on cell proliferation and expansion, but it does not affect the ability of the plant to form functional nodules. In this respect, the phenotype of Lotus mutants is more severe than similar mutants in Arabidopsis or rice.
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Legumes almost exclusively produce the isoflavonoid secondary metabolites, as part of one branch of the phenylpropanoid pathway. Isoflavonoids are important in human nutrition. Together with Cathie Martin, we have exploited Lotus japonicus to isolate a number of putants affected in the production of these compounds. We have identified a large number of L. japonicus transcription factors and are examining their control of the biosynthetic pathway. We have also used L japonicus to identify a number of mutants unable to synthesise toxic secondary metabolites responsible for neurological diseases. Cyanogenic glucosides (e.g. Takos et al, 2010) in Lotus are being used as a model for other species, such as cassava, where they are toxins involved in the disease konzo. In another legume, we are examining the potential of mutant screens to reduce or remove the toxin ODAP (oxalyldiaminopropionate; believed to be responsible for lathyrism) in the legume Lathyrus sativa, grass pea, Cassava and grass pea are frequently ‘insurance crops’ providing nutrition under adverse conditions. Both cassava and grass pea present as Janus-faced crops, however, since they provide desperately needed food for those on the edges of survival, but with the concomitant danger of delivering highly toxic compounds to their consumer.
Throughout most of my career I have been involved in isolating mutants in plants, from mosses to Medicago. Most work now focuses on those isolated using our 'mutation machine' for the model legume, Lotus japonicus. The mutation machine was developed for a forward and reverse genetic screening programme set up in collaboration with Martin Parniske (now at LMU Munich), and part of it became the first reverse genetics plant TILLING platform in Europe (using the model legume, Lotus japonicus; LotusTILLING). The platform was used for both forward and reverse genetics and showed the importance of pre-screened populations for use in reverse genetics (Perry et al, 2003). In a comprehensive analysis of the data collected over many years we showed that there was a significant bias towards the replacement of glycine residues in functionally defective alleles of our Lotus population (Perry et al, 2009). The platform has grown to encompass the model legumes, both Lotus and Medicago truncatula, and Brassica rapa, all under the umbrella of RevGenUK. RevGenUK offers an ‘at cost’ community service and operates on an ABI3730 platform. In our research we have used TILLING either to confirm forward screened mutants (e.g. NENA; Groth et al, 2010) or to generate mutants for known genes (e.g. plant invertases Welham et al, 2009).
Information on past mutants can be found in my archive
We currently have strong collaborations with the Institute of Botany, CAS, Beijing, especially the groups of Chun-Ming Liu and Haichun Jing. Under BBSRC China Partnering Awards, we have helped both groups establish TILLING platforms in rice and sweet sorghum respectively and participated in local workshops. Sweet sorghum is an important biofuel crop in China as it grows on marginal lands and thereby does not compete with food crops. This links in with the BBSRC’s own Sustainable BioEnergy Centre. We are currently investigating sugar metabolism in this crop with IOB. Collaborating groups are Rothamsted (Martin Parry, for BSBEC), Alison Smith, Wendy Harwood and Martin Trick.
This provides a link to old web pages including work on peas, on storage products and on mosses.