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Isabelle Colas

Staff picture: Isabelle Colas
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Cell and Molecular Sciences
Plant Molecular Geneticist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK


Dr Isabelle Colas is a geneticist in the Cell and Molecular Sciences group.

Current research interests

During meiosis, homologous chromosome arms can exchange via the recombination mechanism essential for gene shuffling. It starts by the formation of Double-stranded breaks (DSBs), lesions in the arms of chromosomes which initiate gene conversion and crossing. The frequency and the distribution of the DSBs throughout the genome seem to correlate with the frequency and distribution of meiotic recombination events, but DSBs formations are not random, and seem to appear at very specific region of the genome. In wheat, rye and barley, genetic recombination frequency is high near the telomeres, but rare towards the centromeres while in Arabidopsis the recombination seems to be in the region of low chromatin condensation.

Breeding programmes have the objectives to develop more productive and more stable varieties. Hybridization and selection are frequently employed in plant breeding and the success of introgression of special traits such as disease resistance relies on genetic recombination between the host and alien chromosomes. However, because chiasmata are more frequent towards the telomeres, it implies that a large area of the chromosomes rarely recombines. Therefore, a better understanding of chromosome pairing, synapsis and recombination would enable in creating tools for manipulation of meiosis to improve cereal breeding.

Tinsels I am especially interested in the cross talk between chromosome synapsis and recombination and their effect on chromatin remodelling. We are currently mapping and characterising a collection of 14 desynapctic mutants first described in early 70s (Hernandes-Soriano, 1973). We are also generating transgenics plant for specific genes of interest to elucidate the mechanism of crossing over control in barley in collaboration with various partner (MeioSys) from the meiosis field and the university of Dundee (A. Barakate, C. Halpin). I am also interested how the chromatin landscape might affect recombination hotspot in barley and within its ancestors (collaboration with A. Flavell).


Past research

After my university degrees I was determined to work on crop improvement for breeding and make a better food for the future. I started my career in a private company, AGROGENE S.A., specialised in providing molecular markers for breeding program and GMO testing for the worldwide seed market. Supervised by Dr P. Isaac, I was specialised in technical support for our sequencers/analyzer/robot (Applied Biosystems ABI310, 3100, 7700 &7900 and Qiagen robot Q3000) and developing new molecular biology protocols.

I then decided to increase my experience in crop science and started a PhD at the John Innes Centre with Pr G. Moore and P.J. Shaw on the wheat Ph1 locus topic. This is were I developed my main interest in meiosis and the use of cytogenetic techniques to elucidate gene mechanism. I also successfully developed a proteomic approach to study phosphorylation of wheat histone during meiosis and it's affect on chromatin remodelling one of my favourite topic.


  • Arrieta, M.; Colas, I.; Macaulay, M.; Waugh, R.; Ramsay, L. (2020) A modular tray growth system for barley., In: Pradillo M. & Heckmann S. (eds). Plant Meiosis. Methods in Molecular Biology, Humana, New York, Volume 2061, pp367-379.
  • Darrier, B.; Arrieta, M.; Mittmann, S.U.; Sourdille, P.; Ramsay, L.; Waugh, R.; Colas, I. (2020) Following the formation of synaptonemal complex formation in wheat and barley by high-resolution microscopy., In: Pradillo M. & Heckmann S. (eds). Plant Meiosis. Methods in Molecular Biology, Humana, New York, Volume 2061, pp207-215.
  • Mittmann, S.; Arrieta, M.; Ramsay, L.; Waugh, R.; Colas, I. (2019) Preparation of barley pollen mother cells for confocal and super resolution microscopy., In: Harwood, W.A. (ed.). Barley: Methods and Protocols. Methods Molecular Biology, Volume 1900, Humana Press, New York. Chapter 11, pp167-179.
  • Ramsay, L.; Colas, I.; Waugh, R. (2014) Modulation of meiotic recombination., In: Kumlehn, J. & Stein, N. (eds.). Biotechnological Approaches to Barley Improvement, Part II. Springer, Berlin, Chapter 16, pp311-329.

  • Colas, I.; Tiang, C.; Wang, M.; Sheehan, M.; Pawlowski, W. (2014) Pam1, and RNA Binding Protein required for chromosome dynamics in meiosis., Plant and Animal Genome XXII, San Diego, California, USA, 12-16 January 2014.

Printed from /staff/isabelle-colas on 30/01/23 01:04:01 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.