Prof Mike Bevan

Mike’s research into the genetic control of yield traits such as leaf and seed size in Arabidopsis, Brassicas and wheat, has identified networks of regulatory genes which influence field yields. Focussing on understanding fundamental mechanisms controlling organ size, has opened new avenues to understanding important components of crop yield.

Mike also works on plant genomics, most recently generating a complete and accurate gene set for wheat. He is also developing new ways to generate rapid, cost-effective wheat genome resources.

  • Genetic control of organ size in Arabidopsis  
  • Seed yield in Brassica and wheat crops
  • Genome sequencing and assembly technologies to provide enhanced marker breeding capabilities for wheat


The final sizes of organisms are key defining features, but surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms that establish the final sizes of organs such as leaves, flowers and seeds. Both evolution and domestication have radically reshaped and resized plant organs, therefore it is important to understand the mechanisms underlying this plasticity. As organ sizes are important agricultural traits, these mechanisms are important targets for creating crops with improved yields. 

Mike's lab is using Arabidopsis thaliana, a small experimental plant, to identify mechanisms setting the final sizes of organs. These work at multiple levels to control the numbers and sizes of cells forming organs. They study a mechanism that sets the duration of cell proliferation during organ growth. The mechanism functions to coordinate the cleavage and destruction of diverse proteins that promote cell proliferation and inhibit cell differentiation.

Currently the main interests are in the upstream regulation of this mechanism, and downstream consequences in terms of cell behavior. They've identified several important regulatory genes and shown that they can be used to alter seed size in crops. 

Mike is also interested in the structure of plant genomes, as this knowledge provides fundamentally important resources and a key framework for crop improvement.

Current projects include wheat genome sequencing and the assessing the influence of polyploidy on gene function and composition. This work underpins breeding and gene discovery projects in this important global crop.  

Mike's biography 

I was born in Otorohanga, New Zealand, in 1952 and was a pupil at Otewa School and Hamilton Boys’ High School.  I went to The University of Auckland (1970-1974) where I graduated with an MSc (Hons) in Biochemistry.  I then completed post-graduate studies in plant biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College) with Professor Don Northcote.

My post-doctoral studies in bacterial genetics with Professor Mary-Dell Chilton at Washington University in St Louis involved developing gene transfer and expression systems using Agrobacterium tumefaciens T-DNA components.

I started work at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge in 1982 and moved to the John Innes Centre in Norwich in 1990, where I have been a Strategic Programme Leader, Acting Director and Deputy Director.



Tel: 01603 450520

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Recent Publications

Lu F. H., McKenzie N., Kettleborough G., Heavens D., Clark M. D., Bevan M. (2018)

Independent assessment and improvement of wheat genome sequence assemblies using Fosill jumping libraries.

GigaScience 7

Publisher’s version: 10.1093/gigascience/giy053

Luo M. C., Gu Y. Q., Puiu D., Wang H., Twardziok S. O., Deal K. R., Huo N., Zhu T., Wang L., Wang Y., McGuire P. E., Liu S., Long H., Ramasamy R. K., Rodriguez J. C., Van S. L., Yuan L., Wang Z., Xia Z., Xiao L., Anderson O. D., Ouyang S., Liang Y., Zimin A. V., Pertea G., Qi P., Bennetzen J. L., Dai X., Dawson M. W., Müller H. G., Kugler K., Rivarola-Duarte L., Spannagl M., Mayer K. F. X., Lu F. H., Bevan M. W., Leroy P., Li P., You F. M., Sun Q., Liu Z., Lyons E., Wicker T., Salzberg S. L., Devos K. M., Dvorák J. (2017)

Genome sequence of the progenitor of the wheat D genome Aegilops tauschii.

Nature 551 p498-502

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/nature24486

Clavijo B. J., Venturini L., Schudoma C., Accinelli G. G., Kaithakottil G., Wright J., Borrill P., Kettleborough G., Heavens D., Chapman H., Lipscombe J., Barker T., Lu F. H., McKenzie N., Raats D., Ramirez R. H., Coince A., Peel N., Percival-Alwyn L., Duncan O., Trösch J., Yu G., Bolser D. M., Namaati G., Kerhornou A., Spannagl M., Gundlach H., Haberer G., Davey R. P., Fosker C., Palma F. D., Phillips A. L., Millar A. H., Kersey P. J., Uauy C., Krasileva K. V., Swarbreck D., Bevan M. W., Clark M. D. (2017)

An improved assembly and annotation of the allohexaploid wheat genome identifies complete families of agronomic genes and provides genomic evidence for chromosomal translocations.

Genome Research 27 p885-896

Publisher’s version: 10.1101/gr.217117.116

Bevan M. W., Uauy C., Wulff B. B., Zhou J., Krasileva K., Clark M. D. (2017)

Genomic innovation for crop improvement.

Nature 543 p346-354

Publisher’s version: 10.1038/nature22011

Dong H., Dumenil J., Lu F. H., Na L., Vanhaeren H., Naumann C., Klecker M., Prior R., Smith C., McKenzie N., Saalbach G., Chen L., Xia T., Gonzalez N., Seguela M., Inze D., Dissmeyer N., Li Y., Bevan M. W. (2017)

Ubiquitylation activates a peptidase that promotes cleavage and destabilization of its activating E3 ligases and diverse growth regulatory proteins to limit cell proliferation in Arabidopsis.

Genes & Development 31 p197-208

Publisher’s version: 10.1101/gad.292235.116

View All

Mike Bevan


Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 2013

Elected to European Molecular Biology Organisation, 2001

Kumho Award, 2001

Rank Prize for Nutrition, 1987

Broodbank Fellow, 1976-9


For media enquiries relating to Genetic Manipulation, Genomics, Crop Improvement, contact Michael Bevan directly at

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