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Liam Walker

Research interests:

I am a PhD student in Gifford lab on the MIBTP doctoral training programme. I am interesting in studying how plant root systems adapt to changes in their environment and the molecular mechanisms underpinning these changes. In particular, I am interested in nodulation (the symbiotic interaction between plant roots and soil-dwelling, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia) which allows leguminous plants to fix and assimilate atmospheric nitrogen. Invasion of the root by the rhizobia as a prequisite of successful nodulationand this requires supression of defence responses that would normally occur in response to molecular patterns of the bacteria. To avoid providing route of attack from potentially harmful pathogens, this process must be highly selective for rhizobia.

It is believed that small, non-coding RNAs, including micro RNAs (miRNAs) are important regulators of both defence and symbiosis in plants. I am using the model legume Medicago truncatula alongside highly efficent nitrogen-fixing strains of rhizobia to elucidate miRNAs and other molecular regulators of defence and symbisois responses in plants.


1) Walker, L., Boddington, C., Jenkins, D., Wang, Y., Gronlund, J.T., Hulsmans, J., Kumar, S., Patel, D., Moore, J.D., Carter, A., et al. (2017). Changes in Gene Expression in Space and Time Orchestrate Environmentally Mediated Shaping of Root Architecture. Plant Cell 29, 2393-2412.

2) Lagunas, B., Walker, L., Hussain, R.M.F., Hands-Portman, I., Woolley-Allen, K., and Gifford, M.L. (2018). Histological Profiling Over Time to Optimize Root Cell Type-Specific Reporter Lines for Cell Sorting. Methods Mol Biol 1761, 165-175.