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Professor Liam Dolan seminar

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19 March 2013, 11am
at the James Hutton Institute, Dundee
for scientists, researchers and other interested parties
Liam Dolan

Professor Liam Dolan, Co-Director of the Plants for the 21st Century Institute, University of Oxford, will give a seminar entitled "Evolution of the plant soil interface" at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. It will be broadcast live to the Aberdeen site.


The appearance of multicellular plants with differentiated organs systems on land over 475 million years ago led to the development of the first complex terrestrial ecosystem in the history of the planet. We showed that the appearance of land plants is likely to have caused dramatic global cooling and likely contributed to global cooling and mass extinction at the end of the Ordovician. A further aim of our research is to identify the genetic mechanisms that control the differentiation of cells at the plant soil interface and investigate how this mechanism changed over Earth's history. Our research has focused on the development of specialised filamentous cells on the root surface that play critical roles in the uptake of these essential nutrients from the soil.

The discovery of the mechanism underpinning the growth and development of cells at the plant-soil interface provides insight into fundamental mechanisms of development and evolution. It also provides tools that can be used to develop technologies for the generation of crops with enhanced nutrient uptake capacity. Such yield-enhancing technologies can contribute to the sustenance a growing world population once there are regulatory mechanisms in place that ensure access to technology and food, irrespective of income or geography.


Liam is a developmental geneticist interested in discovering fundamental mechanisms controlling development and elucidating their evolutionary history. The focus of his research has been the development of the interface between plants and soil with special emphasis on filamentous cells such as root hairs and rhizoids. These analyses provide insight into fundamental biological processes, but given the importance of this interface in plant nutrition they provide knowledge that may be used to develop tools for enhancing root function in crops.

Liam started the genetic analysis of root hair development in Arabidopsis as a PhD student with Scott Poethig at the University of Pennsylvania and continued this research program after moving to the John Innes Centre in Norwich where he worked with Keith Roberts. He then spent 15 years as a project leader at JIC and has been at the University of Oxford since 2009 where he is now head of department.

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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.