Our research is organised into two themes.
In the first, we investigate the metabolism of the main cellular components in plants and microbes: carbohydrates, lipids and proteins. We seek to understand in particular how carbohydrates are synthesised and degraded, and why these processes are so important for growth. We develop new techniques for studying enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, and make use of genetic variation for carbohydrates in plants including Arabidopsis, peas, wheat and barley.
This first theme also includes research on the composition of pea and cereal seeds: their contents of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and the micronutrients zinc and iron.
In the second theme we investigate how plants and microbes generate such a diversity of molecules. We are particularly interested in discovering and understanding “bioactive” products – molecules that have effects on other organisms. In Nature, bioactive molecules repel predators and competitors, and attract beneficial organisms.
These molecules are useful to humankind as, for example, antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs, pesticides, and health-promoting components of the diet. Our focus is on the antibiotic-producing bacterium Streptomyces, and on plants that produce specific valuable products. We are also developing plants as protein factories for producing large amounts of particular enzymes and products for further study.