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Professor Richard Napier

Job Title
Life Sciences
024 7657 5094
Research Interests

See our paper on tomographic docking of auxins, link from group webpage.

Molecular recognition is at the heart of the group's activities, in particular the binding and selectivity of hormones by their receptors and transport proteins. The principal projects at present are; the kinetic characterisation of the auxin receptor TIR1; the structure and function of auxin transport proteins; and the development of biosensors for quantitating hormone concentrations in vivo.

Many of the defining responses to auxin are mediated through the receptor protein known as TIR1. In collaboration with Dr Stefan Kepinski (University of Leeds) we are investigating the auxin-mediated kinetics of Aux/IAA transcription factor binding to the SCFTIR1 complex. Much of the work uses Biacore surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to record binding in real-time. Pharmacophoric mapping of receptors informs rational design and selection of novel auxins. This work is now extended to similar studies of auxin transport proteins.

Biosensors combine a biological recognition domain with a physicochemical output unit. Like receptor proteins, recognition domains need to recognise analytes with appropriate sensitivity and selectivity and we are collecting suitable hormone sensor elements. In order to sample from living plants in real-time we are harnessing microtechnologies by working with the experienced neurobiology electrophysiology group of Prof Nick Dale. We have developed microsensors for cytokinins with low nanomolar sensitivity

Tomographic docking. We have developed a new application of AutoDock Vina to examine the interactions ligands make on their way down into deep binding pockets. Our work suggests molecular filters contribute to selection long before docking occurs.


BSc (Hons) Plant Science, University of Reading, 1980
PhD, University of Leicester, 1984

Awards and External Appointments:
1995 President's Medal, Society for Experimental Biology
2003 - 2011, Visiting Professor, University of Nottingham.

Editorial Boards:
Journal of Experimental Botany

  • Ghaffari, Reza, Zhang, Fu, Iliescu, Daciana, Hines, Evor, Leeson, Mark S., Napier, R., Clarkson, John P., 2010. Early detection of diseases in tomato crops : an electronic nose and intelligent systems approach. 2010 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks IJCNN 2010, Barcelona, 18-23 July 2010, Published in IEEE International Conference on Neural Networks. Proceedings, pp. 1-6
  • Napier, R. (Richard), Badescu, George O., 2009. A real-time biosensor for plant hormones. Annual Meeting of the Society-for-Experimental-Biology, Glasgow, Scotland, June 28-JUL 01, 2009, Published in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, pp. S212-S212
  • Retzer, Katarzyna, Singh, Gaurav, Napier, R. (Richard), 2018. It starts with TIRs. Nature Plants, Nature Publishing Group, pp. 410-411
Title Funder Award start Award end
CENTA Doctoral Training Partnership (led by Birmingham) NERC 01 Oct 2014 30 Sep 2023
Structural and functional characterization of the major auxin uptake carrier AUX1 protein (Chitra Joshi) Medical and Life Sciences Research Fund 01 Aug 2021 31 Mar 2022
Self-organising carbon nanosensors for imaging morphogenic gradients in plants Leverhulme Trust 01 Aug 2017 31 Aug 2021
H20 MC: Crystal structures of PIN proteins - CrysPINs. MSCA IF EF ST for Fellow Martin Kubes European Commission 01 Aug 2018 31 Jul 2020
Characterisation of aptamer sequences for the forensic detection of human sperm cells (James Gooch) Royal Society of Chemistry 26 Sep 2019 25 Feb 2020
Masters student placement agreement for Jill Stewart SGS United Kingdom Limited 03 Apr 2018 31 Jul 2018
Next generation auxins and anti-auxins : principles for binding and design BBSRC 03 Mar 2014 02 Mar 2017
GCRF-IAA Resistance to quinolates ? a computational biophysics approach BBSRC 01 Oct 2016 31 Dec 2016
BBSRC Industrial CASE Studentship (Craig Knight) Novel informed modelling approaches to invetigate the evolution and management of herbicide resistance in Alopecurus myosuroides Bayer Crop Science 03 Oct 2011 02 Oct 2015
CASE (DTG) Development of the Plant Ubiquitome as a Novel Crop Protection Strategy - Mark Bailey studentship (Ari Sadanandom now Durham) Syngenta Seeds B.V 01 Oct 2011 30 Sep 2014
Summer Vacation Grant - Biochemical Society Biochemical Society 16 Apr 2014 12 Sep 2014
Association of Commonwealth Universities Professional Fellowship - Dr Tripathi Commonwealth Scholarship Commision in the UK 10 Sep 2013 28 Feb 2014
Quantitative sensors for phytohormone signalling systems BBSRC 01 Aug 2011 31 Jul 2012
Efficient use of inputs in protected horticulture EUPHOROS European Commission 01 Mar 2008 29 Feb 2012
Research Support Grant for Dr Shanthy Sundaram Commonwealth Scholarship Commision in the UK 04 Feb 2011 31 Mar 2011
Understanding specificity in auxin perception BBSRC 01 Mar 2008 28 Feb 2011
National Science Week Awards: Hands-on Plants RCUK 09 Mar 2007 10 Mar 2007