I am interested in the role in mitochondria in the life and death of higher eukaryotic organisms. I use molecular genetics techniques coupled to state-of-the-art cell biology and bioimaging in pursuit of a greater understanding of the relationship between individual mitochondria within the cellular mitochondrial population (the chondriome), and between mitochondria and the rest of the cell. Of particular interest is heterogeneity of mitochondrial structure and function, and analyses of mitochondria at the level of individual organelles.

My primary research goal in this area can be stated simply: to identify the mechanisms, genes, and proteins controlling mitochondrial shape, size, number, distribution in the cell, and cellular inheritance (collectively termed mitochondrial dynamics) in higher plants. Whilst a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, I produced the first Arabidopsis plants expressing the fluorescent marker protein, GFP, targeted to mitochondria.

At the University of St Andrews I mutated these transgenic plants to identify a suite of mutant plants with altered mitochondrial dynamics, meaning the mitochondria in these mutants differ in their size, number per cell, gross structure, or cellular distribution. These mutants were the first of their kind and are very useful tools for discovering more about how mitochondrial dynamics are controlled within the cell, and the role of mitochondrial dynamics in the life and death of plant cells, and the whole organism.

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Research

Organelle limericks

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PLANT MITOCHONDRIAL DYNAMICS

New

We have recently published a paper in Plant Physiology of our work on one of the mutant identified in the mutant screen. In this new work we show that FRIENDLY is involved in mediating intermitochondrial association which is a necessary prelude to mitochondrial fusion. We propose that FRIENDLY is an important component of the plant mitochondrial fusion apparatus.

Movie

Mitochondria and actin in the friendly mutant showing a cluster developing up to 60 s when it is disrupted by rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton.

Scale bar = 5 µm.