Our lab is working towards increasing crop yields for smallholder farmers in east Africa by utilizing genomics, phylogenetics and supercomputing. We focus our efforts on both the vectors and viruses that are devastating staple crops such as cassava and beans in many developing countries. The members of the Bemisia tabaci species complex (whiteflies) are the focus our research because they transmit 200 plant viruses and are a major threat to food security globally. Whiteflies causes damage through both feeding and the transmission of viruses, including the devastating Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). We use genomics, phylogenetics and supercomputing to characterize both the whiteflies and the devastating viruses. Our ultimate goal is to provide species information to breeders and farmers so they ensure their crops are resistant to the correct species circulating in their area.
Established by Ryan Lister, the long-term goals of our research are to understand how the information encoded in the DNA of plant and animal genomes is controlled by epigenetic mechanisms, how the epigenome is altered by the surrounding environment, and to develop molecular tools for precision epigenome engineering.
Our lab was founded to understand the components and underlying processes of plant mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondria are semi-autonomous organelles essential for cellular function responding to tissue and developmental demands in almost all eukaryotic cells.
As the majority of the mitochondrial proteome is nuclear encoded, proteins and macromolecules must first be imported and assembled correctly to function. The Murcha Group’s research focuses on these import pathways and the factors that regulate these processes throughout plant development and stress. The research utilises a variety of cutting edge molecular and biochemical techniques to understand the molecular mechanisms that regulate mitochondrial biogenesis, underlying cellular activity, plant growth and responses to stress.
Our research examines the genetic events that evolve new plant proteins, especially ones with pharmaceutical applications. This not only provides fundamental new knowledge about protein evolution, but also provides opportunities to engineer plants to produce these valuable molecules.
Our interests fall into three related areas of research that ask:
- What are the genetic events that evolved drug-like peptides in plants?
- What are the biochemical pathways and reactions that allow plants to make the constrained and often cyclic peptides created by these genetic events; and
- Can plants reveal the mode-of-action for drugs and enable the design of new drugs? We are answering many of these questions by studying protein evolution, both natural and forced.
Plants are able to adapt to extreme conditions, surviving vast fluctuations in temperature and in highly saline soils. Aside from being biologically fascinating, this has important implications for society.
Our lab research investigates the biological pathways within plant cells that enable them to respond to the external environment, investigating the molecular mechanisms of tolerance and acclimation to both temperature variation and salt in a model plant, Arabidopsis, and the crop plant wheat. Applying proteomic, lipidomics and metabolomic approaches, my team is revealing the role of an important organelle - the mitochondrion - in these adaptive processes.
Our lab studies the molecular principles behind how plants grow, develop and reproduce, and how they perceive signals from the environment. In turn, we hope to translate these discoveries into benefits for the wider world. Our research topics include:
- Chemical Signaling
- Synthetic Biology
- Hormones and plant development
- Plant performance
Honeybees are of central importance for human food production as more that 80 crops of agricultural interest depend on bee pollination. Their pollinating services are currently under thread though as dramatic declines in honeybee populations currently occur. The Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER) uses a cross disciplinary approach of systems biology and evolutionary ecology to study the reproduction, immunity and ecology of honeybees. The work is done in close collaboration with the local honeybee industry to address some of the current and future problems of honeybees.
Computational Systems Biology
The State Government of Western Australia, through its Centre's of Excellence in Science and Innovation Program is currently funding the Centre of Excellence for Computational Systems Biology as an adjunct to the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. The state funding will amount to $2.72M in total (2006-2013). The Centre of Excellence is housed within the laboratories and administrative structure of the ARC Centre and shares common goals, resources and outputs.