Janneke Balk started her independent research group at the University of Cambridge in 2005 and moved to the Norwich Research Park in 2011.
Her position is joint between the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia.
The Balk lab explores how plants balance the uptake of iron with cellular and developmental demands. They use genetic and biochemical approaches to study the function of proteins involved in iron cofactor biosynthesis, iron transport and in iron storage.
Iron is an essential element for virtually all life forms. Its redox properties make it a versatile catalyst in many different enzyme reactions. However, an excess of free iron inside the cell is toxic, therefore iron concentrations are tightly controlled by regulatory mechanisms.
These mechanisms operate at the cellular level and, in multicellular organisms, regulate the distribution of iron between different tissues and organs. For example, large amounts of iron are allocated to root nodules that house nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria in the legume Medicago truncatula, or to specific tissues in developing seeds.
A better understanding of how plants manage iron could improve plant growth and it could also be exploited to increase the iron concentration in plant foods, known as biofortification.
Specific topics of interest are:
Walton J. H., Kontra-Kováts G., Green R. T., Domonkos A., Horváth B., Brear E. M., Franceschetti M., Kaló P., Balk J. (2020)The Medicago truncatula Vacuolar iron Transporter-Like proteins VTL4 and VTL8 deliver iron to symbiotic bacteria at different stages of the infection process.New PhytologistPublisher's version: 0028-646X
Rodriguez-Celma J., Connorton J. M., Kruse I., Green R. T., Franceschetti M., Chen Y. T., Cui Y., Ling H. Q., Yeh K. C., Balk J. (2019)Arabidopsis BRUTUS-LIKE E3 ligases negatively regulate iron uptake by targeting transcription factor FIT for recycling.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of AmericaPublisher's version: 0027-8424
Balk J., Connorton J. M., Wan Y., Lovegrove A., Moore K. L., Uauy C., Sharp P. A., Shewry P. R. (2019)Improving wheat as a source of iron and zinc for global nutrition.Nutrition bulletin (44)Publisher's version: 1467-3010
Enquiries for short-term placements, or Postgraduate and Postdoctoral opportunities are always welcome.
When required, the Balk lab will help to explore funding sources for fellowships and PhD studentships from the BBSRC, EU or other organisations.