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Cracking the symbiosis code

22 October 2013, 11am: Free
at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee DD2 5DA
for scientists, students and other interested parties
Richard Morris

Professor Richard J. Morris, Institute Strategic Programme Leader at the John Innes Centre will give this seminar entitled "Cracking the symbiosis code" at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. It will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.


Plant growth is frequently limited by the essential nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. Several plant species have established symbiotic relationships with microorganisms to overcome such limitations. In addition to the symbiotic relationship with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi that many plants enter into to secure their phosphorus uptake, legumes establish interactions with rhizobial bacteria that results in fixed atmospheric nitrogen being transferred to the plant.

These two very different developmental programmes that legumes undergo employ the same signalling pathway with many components being common to both symbioses. In particular, both the mychorrizal and rhizobial interactions share characteristic perinuclear calcium oscillations that are thought to be a potential source of specificity for downstream events. It is thus important to understand the generation of the calcium oscillations, their specificity and how they are robustly decoded.

I will present our work on using mathematical modelling to suggest hypotheses for the molecular components of the system, describe the effect of buffers and how calcium oscillations may be initiated on the nuclear membrane. I will present a spatiotemporal model for calcium wave generation and show how such approaches can be used to shed light on how these oscillations may be established in and around the nucleus and how this may help to decipher the symbiotic code.


Richard completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering, before obtaining his BSc in Physics and then an MSc in Theoretical Physics in 1996 from the Erzherzog University of Graz, Austria. He won an EMBL fellowship to carry out his PhD research at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hamburg. There he developed the first (and now world-leading) software package for solving protein crystal structures and introduced novel quantum mechanical approaches for studying ultra-high resolution protein electron density.

After completing his PhD in 2000, Richard joined the group of Gerard Bricogne (MRC-LMB Cambridge and Global Phasing Ltd) to work on Bayesian software development. Richard then joined the group of Janet Thornton at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in 2002, where he developed novel shape mathematics for protein function prediction.

In 2005, Richard was recruited to the bioinformatics group at the John Innes Centre (JIC) as a tenure-track project leader. Richard played a key role in building up computational biology at JIC, which became the Department of Computational and Systems Biology, which he headed until 2013. His research aims to shed light on the physics of plant-microbe interactions. Richard works closely with experimentalists at JIC to promote systems level understanding of biological phenomena.

The seminar is being hosted by Dr Sue Jones.

Printed from /events/cracking-symbiosis-code on 29/02/24 06:17:20 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.