Dr Ulrike Bechtold

Senior Lecturer
School of Life Sciences
Dr Ulrike Bechtold
  • Email

  • Telephone

    +44 (0) 1206 872244

  • Location

    3SW.5.43, Colchester Campus



2010- present : Lecturer 2004 - 2010: Senior Research Officer, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester, UK 2002 - 2004: Research Scientist, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK 1998 - 2002: PhD in plant molecular biology, Department of Disease & Stress Biology, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK 1992 - 1998: Diploma (equivalent to M.Sc.) in Biology, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany Lab: 5.36 Research Students Ms Wardah Alhoqail, PhD student Ms Maria Michailid, MsD student Mr Alexander Bowles, shared PhD student Google Scholar: Orcid ID:


  • PhD John Innes Centre (BBSRC), (2002)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Natural variation of water productivity

Open to supervise

Transcriptional networks of drought stress responses

Open to supervise

Systems biology led modelling of high light responses in Arabidopsis

Dynamic acclimation to increased light intensities is characterised by increased photosynthetic capacity leading to increase plant productivity or fitness. Using time series transcrptomics data from plant responding to an increase in light intensity, we have observed the beginnings at the molecular level of dynamic acclimation, several days before it is manifest as increased photosynthetic capacity. The initiation of acclimation is controlled by a photoreceptor and activates a network of transcription factors which are central to the acclimation process. These geens provide the means for articifically being able to increase photosynthetic capcity tapping in on the plant's intrinsic capacity to do this. For details of the genes involved contact Phil Mullineaux, who will be happy to discuss this with you. The datasets are available on GEO and a paper is being prepared for publication.

Key words: Gene networks
Open to supervise

Coordination of stress defence signalling and development by heat shock transcription factors

Plants must coordinate gene expression to balance growth and stress defence, which includes enhancement of disease resistance, tolerance to drought stress as well as being classically associated with adaptation to high temperatures. Arabidopsis HSFA1b most likely exerts its effects by re-configuring an extensive transcription regulatory network at the onset of stress. To understand how HSFA1b achieves this, we surveyed its genome-wide targets (ChIP-seq) and its impact on the transcriptome (RNA-seq) under non-stress (NS), heat stress (HS) in wild type and HSFA1b over-expressing plants under NS. 952 differentially expressed HSFA1b-targeted genes were identified of which, at least 85 are development-associated and were bound predominantly under NS. A further 1780 genes were differentially expressed but not bound by HSFA1b of which 281 were classified as having development-associated functions. These genes are indirectly regulated through a hierarchical network of 27 transcription factors (TFs). Furthermore, we identified 480 natural antisense non-coding RNA (cisNAT) genes bound by HSFA1b, defining a further mode of indirect regulation. Finally, HSFA1b-targeted genomic features not only harboured heat shock elements, but also MADS box, LEAFY and G-Box promoter motifs. This revealed that HSFA1b is one of 8 TFs that target a common group of stress-defence and developmental genes. We propose that HSFA1b transduces environmental cues to many stress tolerance and developmental genes to allow plants to continually adjust their growth and development in a varying environment.

Key words: heat stress
Open to supervise

Current research

Protein glycation during plant stress

lycation is the non-enzymatic reaction of sugars with proteins to form advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs). AGEs cross-link and inhibit proteins, and in humans, is one of the major causes for diabetes-associated complications. Due to their stable n. While glycation is known to trigger defense mechanisms in animals, little is known about the role of glycation in the regulation of defense responses in plants. My lab has shown the presence of specific early and advanced glycation products in response to stress and diurnal variation in Arabidopsis leaf extracts, linking carbohydrate associated protein modifications to underlying physiological processes (Bechtold et al 2009).

The role of S6K2 during plant stress responses

Conferences and presentations

Glycated peptides trigger H2O2 signaling in Arabidopsis

Invited presentation, Interdisciplinary Plant Group, Columbia, United States, 30/5/2019

Identification of genes important for heat and drought tolerance in desert species

SYNERGY workshop, Beersheba, Israel, 5/9/2018

HSFA1b orchestrates a complex hierarchical gene regulatory network to coordinate plant growth and heat stress responses

Invited presentation, SEB Annual Meeting, Florence, Italy, 5/7/2018

‘Growing Pains': Discovering genes for drought tolerance and water use

Invited presentation, GRC Salt and Water Stress, Waterville Valley, United States, 7/6/2018

Natural variation and network modelling approaches to identify novel regulatory genes affecting plant development and water use

Invited presentation, IPPC, New Delhi, India, 14/12/2015

Regulatory network models of drought responses in Arabidopsis thaliana

ICAR, Vancouver, Canada, 31/7/2014

Using High-Resolution Profiling of Transcripts to Understand Early Signaling Events in Slow Progressive Drying

Invited presentation, Keynote presentation, FESBP, Dublin, Ireland, 26/6/2014

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Molecular Biology: Genes, Proteins and Disease (BS221)

  • Issues in Biomolecular Science (BS304)

Previous supervision

Billy Eric Murphy
Billy Eric Murphy
Thesis title: Arabidopsis Thaliana Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinase 1 (Ats6K1) Mediates Abiotic Stress Responses.
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Master of Science (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 4/11/2021
Alexander Bowles
Alexander Bowles
Thesis title: Major Transitions in the Plant Tree of Life: Insights From Genes, Genomes and Traits
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 11/5/2021
Wardah Abdulaziz A Alhoqail
Wardah Abdulaziz A Alhoqail
Thesis title: The Role of the Domain of Unknown Function (Duf2358) in Sugar Signalling Pathways in Arabidopsis Thaliana
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 26/1/2021
Mouboni Dutta
Mouboni Dutta
Degree subject: Occasional Study: Biological Sciences (Research)
Degree type: Occasional Postgraduate Study
Awarded date: 2/10/2019
Maria Michailidi
Maria Michailidi
Thesis title: The Role of the Bhlh038 Transcription Factor in the Regulation of Osmotic and Drought Stress Responses in Arabidopsis Thaliana
Degree subject: Cell and Molecular Biology
Degree type: Master of Science (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 8/4/2019
Irabonosi Celestine Obomighie
Irabonosi Celestine Obomighie
Thesis title: The Role of Arabidopsis Thaliana Clade A1 Heat Shock Transcription Factors in Growth and Development
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 20/3/2019
John Nicholas Ferguson
John Nicholas Ferguson
Thesis title: Natural Variation of Water Use and Water Productivity in Arabidopsis Thaliana
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 11/5/2017
Sunitha Subramaniam
Sunitha Subramaniam
Thesis title: Identification and Analysis of Gene Regulatory Networks Involved in the Drought Stress Response in Arabidopsis Thaliana
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Doctor of Philosophy
Awarded date: 18/11/2016
Danny Tacchini
Danny Tacchini
Thesis title: The Role of the Clade A1 Heat Shock Transcription Factors (Hsf) During Hyaloperonospora Arabidopsidis Infection
Degree subject: Biological Sciences
Degree type: Master of Science (by Dissertation)
Awarded date: 19/8/2015


Journal articles (29)

Bowles, AMC., Paps, J. and Bechtold, U., (2022). Water‐related innovations in land plants evolved by different patterns of gene co‐option and novelty. New Phytologist

Obomighie, I., Lapenas, K., Murphy, BE., Bowles, AMC., Bechtold, U. and Prischi, F., (2021). The Role of Ribosomal Protein S6 Kinases in Plant Homeostasis. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences. 8, 636560-

Alvarez‐Fernandez, R., Penfold, CA., Galvez‐Valdivieso, G., Exposito‐Rodriguez, M., Stallard, EJ., Bowden, L., Moore, JD., Mead, A., Davey, PA., Matthews, JSA., Beynon, J., Buchanan‐Wollaston, V., Wild, DL., Lawson, T., Bechtold, U., Denby, KJ. and Mullineaux, PM., (2021). Time series transcriptomics reveals a BBX32-directed control of acclimation to high light in mature Arabidopsis leaves. The Plant Journal. 107 (5), 1363-1386

Bowles, AMC., Paps, J. and Bechtold, U., (2021). Evolutionary Origins of Drought Tolerance in Spermatophytes.. Frontiers in Plant Science. 12, 655924-

Bowles, AMC., Bechtold, U. and Paps, J., (2020). The Origin of Land Plants Is Rooted in Two Bursts of Genomic Novelty. Current Biology. 30 (3), 530-536.e2

Chaplin, AK., Chernukhin, I. and Bechtold, U., (2019). Profiling of advanced glycation end products uncovers abiotic stress-specific target proteins in Arabidopsis. Journal of Experimental Botany. 70 (2), 653-670

Ferguson, JN., Meyer, RC., Edwards, KD., Humphry, M., Brendel, O. and Bechtold, U., (2019). Accelerated flowering time reduces lifetime water use without penalizing reproductive performance in Arabidopsis. Plant, Cell and Environment. 42 (6), 1847-1867

Ferguson, JN., Humphry, M., Lawson, T., Brendel, O. and Bechtold, U., (2018). Natural variation of life-history traits, water use, and drought responses in Arabidopsis. Plant Direct. 2 (1), e00035-

Bechtold, U., Ferguson, JN. and Mullineaux, PM., (2018). To defend or to grow: Lessons from Arabidopsis C24. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69 (11), 2809-2821

Albihlal, WS., Irabonosi, O., Blein, T., Persad, R., Chernukhin, I., Crespi, M., Bechtold, U. and Mullineaux, PM., (2018). Arabidopsis HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORA1b regulates multiple developmental genes under benign and stress conditions. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69 (11), 2847-2862

Bechtold, U. and Field, B., (2018). Molecular mechanisms controlling plant growth during abiotic stress. Journal of Experimental Botany. 69 (11), 2753-2758

Bechtold, U., (2018). Plant Life in Extreme Environments: How Do You Improve Drought Tolerance?. Frontiers in Plant Science. 9, 543-

Dickinson, E., Rusilowicz, MJ., Dickinson, M., Charlton, AJ., Bechtold, U., Mullineaux, PM. and Wilson, J., (2018). Integrating transcriptomic techniques and k-means clustering in metabolomics to identify markers of abiotic and biotic stress in Medicago truncatula. Metabolomics. 14 (10), 126-

Bechtold, U., Penfold, CA., Jenkins, DJ., Legaie, R., Moore, JD., Lawson, T., Matthews, JSA., Vialet-Chabrand, SRM., Baxter, L., Subramaniam, S., Hickman, R., Florance, H., Sambles, C., Salmon, DL., Feil, R., Bowden, L., Hill, C., Baker, NR., Lunn, JE., Finkenstädt, B., Mead, A., Buchanan-Wollaston, V., Beynon, J., Rand, DA., Wild, DL., Denby, KJ., Ott, S., Smirnoff, N. and Mullineaux, PM., (2016). Time-series transcriptomics reveals that AGAMOUS-LIKE22 affects primary metabolism and developmental processes in drought-stressed arabidopsis. Plant Cell. 28 (2), 345-366

Lawson, T., Davey, PA., Yates, SA., Bechtold, U., Baeshen, M., Baeshen, N., Mutwakil, MZ., Sabir, J., Baker, NR. and Mullineaux, PM., (2014). C₃ photosynthesis in the desert plant Rhazya stricta is fully functional at high temperatures and light intensities. New Phytologist. 201 (3), 862-873

Yates, SA., Chernukhin, I., Alvarez-Fernandez, R., Bechtold, U., Baeshen, M., Baeshen, N., Mutwakil, MZ., Sabir, J., Lawson, T. and Mullineaux, PM., (2014). The temporal foliar transcriptome of the perennial C3 desert plant Rhazya stricta in its natural environment. BMC Plant Biology. 14 (1), 2-

Bechtold, U., Albihlal, WS., Lawson, T., Fryer, MJ., Sparrow, PAC., Richard, F., Persad, R., Bowden, L., Hickman, R., Martin, C., Beynon, JL., Buchanan-Wollaston, V., Baker, NR., Morison, JIL., Schöffl, F., Ott, S. and Mullineaux, PM., (2013). Arabidopsis HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORA1b overexpression enhances water productivity, resistance to drought, and infection. Journal of Experimental Botany. 64 (11), 3467-3481

Lapin, D., Meyer, RC., Takahashi, H., Bechtold, U. and Ackerveken, G., (2012). Broad‐spectrum resistance of A rabidopsis C 24 to downy mildew is mediated by different combinations of isolate‐specific loci. New Phytologist. 196 (4), 1171-1181

BECHTOLD, U., LAWSON, T., MEJIA-CARRANZA, J., MEYER, RC., BROWN, IR., ALTMANN, T., TON, J. and MULLINEAUX, PM., (2010). Constitutive salicylic acid defences do not compromise seed yield, drought tolerance and water productivity in the Arabidopsis accession C24. Plant, Cell & Environment. 33 (11), 1959-1973

Waring, J., Klenell, M., Bechtold, U., Underwood, GJC. and Baker, NR., (2010). LIGHT-INDUCED RESPONSES OF OXYGEN PHOTOREDUCTION, REACTIVE OXYGEN SPECIES PRODUCTION AND SCAVENGING IN TWO DIATOM SPECIES1. Journal of Phycology. 46 (6), 1206-1217

Bechtold, U., Rabbani, N., Mullineaux, PM. and Thornalley, PJ., (2009). Quantitative measurement of specific biomarkers for protein oxidation, nitration and glycation in Arabidopsis leaves. The Plant Journal. 59 (4), 661-671

Bechtold, U., Richard, O., Zamboni, A., Gapper, C., Geisler, M., Pogson, B., Karpinski, S. and Mullineaux, PM., (2008). Impact of chloroplastic- and extracellular-sourced ROS on high light-responsive gene expression in Arabidopsis. Journal of Experimental Botany. 59 (2), 121-133

Napier, J., Haslam, R., Venegas-Caleron, M. and Sayanova, O., (2007). Rational metabolic engineering of transgenic plants for the synthesis of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 146 (4), S244-S245

Flors, C., (2006). Imaging the production of singlet oxygen in vivo using a new fluorescent sensor, Singlet Oxygen Sensor Green(R). Journal of Experimental Botany. 57 (8), 1725-1734

BECHTOLD, U., KARPINSKI, S. and MULLINEAUX, PM., (2005). The influence of the light environment and photosynthesis on oxidative signalling responses in plant-biotrophic pathogen interactions. Plant, Cell and Environment. 28 (8), 1046-1055

Ball, L., Accotto, G-P., Bechtold, U., Creissen, G., Funck, D., Jimenez, A., Kular, B., Leyland, N., Mejia-Carranza, J., Reynolds, H., Karpinski, S. and Mullineaux, PM., (2004). Evidence for a Direct Link between Glutathione Biosynthesis and Stress Defense Gene Expression in Arabidopsis[W]. The Plant Cell. 16 (9), 2448-2462

Bechtold, U., Murphy, DJ. and Mullineaux, PM., (2004). Arabidopsis Peptide Methionine Sulfoxide Reductase2 Prevents Cellular Oxidative Damage in Long Nights[W]. The Plant Cell. 16 (4), 908-919

Gustavsson, N., Kokke, BPA., Härndahl, U., Silow, M., Bechtold, U., Poghosyan, Z., Murphy, D., Boelens, WC. and Sundby, C., (2002). A peptide methionine sulfoxide reductase highly expressed in photosynthetic tissue inArabidopsis thalianacan protect the chaperone‐like activity of a chloroplast‐localized small heat shock protein. The Plant Journal. 29 (5), 545-553

Bechtold, U., Pahlich, E. and Lea, PJ., (1998). Methionine sulphoximine does not inhibit pea and wheat glutamate dehydrogenase. Phytochemistry. 49 (2), 347-354

Conferences (4)

Bechtold, U. and Mullineaux, P., Identification of genes important for heat and drought tolerance in desert species

Mullineaux, P., Baker, N., Bechtold, U., Fryer, M. and Davies, W., (2007). Spatial dependence for H2O2-directed signalling in Arabidopsis leaves

Bechtold, U. and Rabbani, N., (2007). Evidence of advanced glycation endproducts, oxidation and nitrosation damage in Arabidopsis leaves

Bechtold, U., Leyland, NR. and Mullineaux, PM., (2003). Does elevated foliar glutathione alter responses to biotic and abiotic stress?

Reports and Papers (1)

Alvarez-Fernandez, R., Penfold, CA., Galvez-Valdivieso, G., Exposito-Rodriguez, M., Stallard, EJ., Bowden, L., Moore, JD., Mead, A., Davey, PA., Matthews, JSA., Beynon, J., Buchanan-Wollaston, V., Wild, DL., Lawson, T., Bechtold, U., Denby, K. and Mullineaux, PM., Time series transcriptomics reveals a BBX32-directed control of dynamic acclimation to high light in mature Arabidopsis leaves

Grants and funding


Agronomical, physiological and transcriptional response of soybean to drought stress

British Council

The role of a Domain of Unknown Function (DUF) protein in chloroplast and mitochondrial retrograde signalling pathways

The Royal Society


Genomics led improvement of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


Flipping the switch; regulating protein synthesis in response to stress

Leverhulme Trust

Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density

European Commission

Characterization of genes identified through activation tagging in Oryza sativa ssp. Indica cv. Samba Mahsuri for abiotic stress tolerance

British Council


PHOTOWHEAT: Exploiting variation in stomatal dynamics and ear photosynthesis to optimise wheat productivity.

Biotechnology & Biology Science Res.Council

Identifying the mechanisms and resource use implications of acclimation to high-temperature in marine cyanobacteria

Natural Environment Research Council


Sugar signalling during drought stress: do plants suffer diabetes when stressed

Leverhulme Trust


Dissecting the Heat Shock Transcription A1b (HSFA1b) network

Society of Biology


India - Transfer of Regulatory Genes from Arabidopsis to Indian Mustard

Biotechnology & Biology Science Res.Council


Environmental meta-genomics and biotechnology of Rhazya

King Abdulaziz University

Metabolic engineering to enhance photosynthesis based on empirical data and in silico modelling

Biotechnology & Biology Science Res.Council


European Commission

+44 (0) 1206 872244


3SW.5.43, Colchester Campus