Academic Staff

Professor Philip M Mullineaux

Position in departmentDirector of Research
Staff positionProfessor of Plant Molecular Biology
Telephone01206 872118

1978 BSc(Hons; Class 1) University of Wales (Swansea)

1981 PhD University of Wales (Swansea) Thesis title: The relationship between photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation in the cyanobacterium Gloeocapsa (Gloeothece) CCAP sp 1430/3.

1981-1983 MRC Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh

1983-1986 Agrigenetics-Funded SSO at John Innes Institute

1986-1989 Complemented SSO (BBSRC) post John Innes Institute

1989-2000 Complemented post: Project Leader (band 4) John Innes Centre

2000-2004 Associate Head of Dept. of Disease and Stress Biology, John Innes Centre

1st June 2004-present. Professor of Plant Molecular Biology, University of Essex.

1st August 2008 - 31st July 2011 Direct of Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex


BSc (Biochemistry) Class 1 University of Wales 1978

PhD (Biochemistry) University of Wales 1981

Current research

See above.

Research Student -

Mr Irabonosi Obomighie

Research interests
  • Signalling pathways that control defence gene expression in plants subject to high light stress
  • Redox-mediated coordination of abiotic and biotic stress defence signalling pathways with special reference to heat shock transcription factors 
  • Drought responsive gene expression in legumes and Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress)
  • Identification of novel genes and processes from C3 desert plants that can be exploited for biotechnological applications
  • Systems biology led modelling of high light responses and interaction with the regualtion of basla immunity in Arabidopsis
  • Development of genetic probes based on GFP for non-invasive detection and quantification of hydrogen peroxide accumulation in subcellular compartments

As a consequence of living in a constantly changing environment, from which they cannot move, plants have to have sophisticated means of monitoring and responding to changes in their environment. A major aspect of my research is focused on defining the signalling pathways that initiate these responses. An important consequence of such studies is to understand how signalling translates into altered physiological functions of the plants such that they become acclimated to their new conditions. One particular challenge is to translate what we learn in the laboratory to the response of the plant in the field or in its natural habitat. Particularly pertinent are questions about the functioning of signalling networks when the plant is challenged with multiple and fluctuating changes in the environment. In order to begin to understand this we are beginning to work with experimental systems that challenge the plant sequentially or simultaneously with more than one stress. Analysis of the genes that are altered in their expression and the signalling pathways that regulate them are then compared with plants challenged conventionally with a single stress. The final challenge is to move or research from the laboratory to the field

Our initial studies have concentrated on the response of Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress) to a sudden increase in light intensity. This is a continual problem that plants face, and as a consequence they often absorb more light energy than they can use for photosynthesis. To get around this problem, plants dissipate excess light energy (known as excitation energy) using a variety of processes. Some of these processes (such as the water-water cycle and photorespiration) generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are removed by a network of lower molecular weight antioxidants (eg. glutathione and ascorbate) and enzymes (such as superoxide dismutases and ascorbate peroxidases). If the production of ROS exceeds the capacity of the antioxidant network to deal with them, then cells suffer oxidative damage, which is often manifested as bleaching, paling or bronzing of leaves. Therefore a key part of how plants acclimate to such conditions is to adjust the functioning of their antioxidant network to suit their situation. The signal for making these adjustments is the ROS themselves and separate signalling routes controlled by the thiol antioxidant glutathione. An important part of acclimation to a changed environment may include the setting of thresholds for when such defences are deployed.

The Mullineaux laboratory moved from the John Innes Centre to the University of Essex on 1st June 2004 and this has provided additional opportunities to initiate research into the genes underlying and influencing water productivity, i.e. the amount of lifetime water consumed as a function of its harvestable product. This work has led to patent filing on the role of a transcription factor in this response. Funding by BBSRC in the SABR initiative has allows us, in collaboration with the Universities of Exeter and Warwick, to begin to develop a Systems Biology approach leading to a holistic view of how signalling pathways integrate and are coordinated to elicit a response at the whole plant level to high light.

Current Projects and Collaborations

  • Systems biology led appoaches to analysing the responses of Arabidopsis to environmental stress (BBSRC; 2007-2013). Collaborations with Universities of Warwick and Exeter
  • ABSTRESS: EU FPVII funded project on a Systems Biology approach to identification of genes in legumes responsive to combined drought and Fusarium infection and transfer of modified traits to pea for field trialling (2011-2016). This is a project coducted in collaboration with Drs Ulrike Bechtold, Tracy Lawson and Igor Chernukhin at Essex and CNRS, INRA, Defra Food and Environment Research Agency, ABC (Hungary) and University of Cordoba along with 7 SME companies from the EU.
  • Development of HyPer as a GFP-based genetic probe for sensing hydogen peroxide in vivo in plants (BBSRC 2012- 2015). Collaboration with Prof Nick Smirnoff at University of Exeter.
  • Transcriptomics, metabolomics and physiology of the desert plant  Rhazya stricta for identiifcation of genes for Biotechnological exploitation: Phase 1 pilot project (Funded by King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; 2011-2013). In conjunction with Drs Tracy Lawson, Ulrike Bechtold and Igor Chernukhin and colleagues at KAU.
  • Transfer of regulatory genes involved in drought and hihgl ight responses from Arabidopsis to Indan mustard (Brassica juncea. Funded by BBSRC and Essex JEDF award, in conjunction with Dr Ulrike Bechtold. Our Indian collaborator is Prof Neera Sarin, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Teaching responsibilities
  • BS934 Gene Technology lectures and practicals - MSc Biotechnology/Molecular Medicine
  • BS931 Post Genomic Technologies and Bioinformatics lectures- MSc Biotechnology/Molecular Medicine
  • BS323 Plant Botechnology -lectures
  • Undergraduate and taught postgraduate project supervision
  • First year Tutor (BS141)
PublicationsLink to publications for Philip M Mullineaux
Additional information
  • Member of American Society of Plant Biology, Society for Experimental Biology and Society of Free Radical Research
  • Referee for Nature, Science, PNAS, Plant Cell, Plant Journal, Plant Physiology, Journal of Experimental Botany, Physiologia Plantarum, New Phytologist, Plant Molecular Biology

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