Prof Alison Smith

Programme Leader (Molecules from Nature)
Metabolic Biology

Alison’s research is on starch and sucrose metabolism in the model plant Arabidopsis and in crops including cereals and potatoes.

Alison investigates the genetic and molecular control of starch degradation in leaves and storage organs, and how this is coordinated with plant growth over the day-night cycle and with germination and sprouting.

Her research also explores how starch granules are formed, and factors that determine the rate and amount of starch accumulation in cereal grains.

  • Starch synthesis and degradation in cereal seeds
  • Control of starch turnover in leaves
  • Relationship between starch turnover and the rate of plant growth


The expertise of the Smith lab is in primary metabolism in plants, particularly the metabolism of sucrose and starch. We aim to discover how plant growth and yield in different environments is coordinated with the assimilation and storage of carbon. 

They use biochemical, genetic and molecular biological techniques to study this question in Arabidopsis and in cereals. 

Research is done in close collaboration with colleagues who are experts on wheat genomics (Cristobal Uauy lab), chemical genetics (Rob Field lab) and mathematical modelling (Martin Howard lab). 

Professor Alison Smith elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society

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Giles Oldroyd and Alison Smith named in 2015 list of the most highly cited scientists worldwide

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New progress towards maximising photosynthesis in plants

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A-level students get to grips with genetics

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Recent Publications

Fernandez O., Ishihara H., George G. M., Mengin V., Flis A., Sumner D., Arrivault S., Feil R., Lunn J. E., Zeeman S. C., Smith A. M., Stitt M. (2017)

Leaf Starch Turnover Occurs in Long Days and in Falling Light at the End of the Day

Plant Physiology 174 p2199-2212

Publisher’s version: 10.1104/pp.17.00601

Atkinson N., Leitao N., Orr D. J., Meyer M. T., Carmo-Silva E., Griffiths H., Smith A. M., McCormick A. J. (2017)

Rubisco small subunits from the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas complement Rubisco-deficient mutants of Arabidopsis

New Phytologist 214(2) p655-667

Publisher’s version: 10.1111/nph.14414

Andriotis V. M., Rejzek M., Barclay E., Rugen M. D., Field R. A., Smith A. M. (2016)

Cell wall degradation is required for normal starch mobilisation in barley endosperm.

Scientific reports 6 p33215

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/srep33215

Feike D., Seung D., Graf A., Bischof S., Ellick T., Coiro M., Soyk S., Eicke S., Mettler-Altmann T., Lu K. J., Trick M., Zeeman S. C., Smith A. M. (2016)

The starch granule-associated protein EARLY STARVATION1 (ESV1) is required for the control of starch degradation in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves

Plant Cell 28 p1472-1489

Publisher’s version: doi:10.1105/tpc.16.00011

Andriotis V. M., Saalbach G., Waugh R., Field R. A., Smith A. M. (2016)

The Maltase Involved in Starch Metabolism in Barley Endosperm Is Encoded by a Single Gene.

PLoS ONE 11 pe0151642

Publisher’s version: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151642

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Alison Smith


  • Appointed Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to plant biochemistry, 2006
  • Thomson Reuters Top 1% Highly Cited Researcher, 2014
  • Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), 2016


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