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 legumes 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:
Harrington SA, Connorton JM, Nyangoma NIM, McNelly R, Morgan YML, Aslam MF, Sharp PA, Johnson AAT, Uauy C, Balk (2023)A two-gene strategy increases iron and zinc concentrations in wheat flour, improving mineral bioaccessibility.Plant PhysiologyPublisher's version: 0032-0889
Przybyla-Toscano J, Maclean AE, Franceschetti M, Liebsch D, Vignols F, Keech O, Rouhier N, Balk (2021)Protein lipoylation in mitochondria requires Fe-S cluster assembly factors NFU4 and NFU5.Plant Physiology (188)Publisher's version: 1532-2548
Rodriguez-Celma J, Connorton JM, Kruse I, Green RT, Franceschetti M, Chen YT, Cui Y, Ling HQ, Yeh KC, Balk (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
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.