Professor Barry Pogson

Barry Pogson

Barry Pogson undertook his study in Australia completing his B.Sc. (Hons) at the University of NSW and his Ph.D. in 1991 at Macquarie University. He undertook a postdoctoral fellowship with CSIRO Division of Horticulture, which involved exchange visits with New Zealand Crop and Food Research. He moved to the USA in 1994 working as a postdoc with Dean DellaPenna at the University of Arizona and University of Nevada, Reno, before taking an Assistant Professorship at Arizona State University in 1997. His current appointment at The Australian National University commenced late 1999. He was promoted to professor in 2008.

Barry has received three prestigious awards in recognition both of the impact of his research into carotenoids, photosynthesis and drought research, and for his leadership qualities in supervision of research students and postdoctoral fellows:

  • The Fenner Medal by the Australian Academy of Science
  • The Goldacre Medal by the Australian Society of Plant Scientists
  • The ANU Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Supervision

He is a co-editor at the Plant Cell, the most highly cited research journal in plant biology and is the Australian representative on the Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee (MASC).

His research focuses on two major areas: 1. carotenoid biosynthesis and 2. chloroplast signaling and plant responses to high light and drought.

  • Barry and colleagues were the first to identify and characterise the gene encoding the key biosynthetic enzyme that produces the most abundant plant carotenoid, lutein. A key result was the demonstration that lutein is not an essential structural component in the main light-harvesting complex, as had been assumed (Plant Cell 1996, PNAS 1998). Subsequent research published in The Plant Cell in 2002 on the discovery of a novel enzyme in carotenoid biosynthesis, the carotenoid isomerase, is in the top 1% in its field for citations. Current research on carotenoids is targeted at defining novel roles for carotenoids, namely, the interactions between carotenoids and plant developmental processes, investigating their regulation by epigenetic processes (Plant Cell 2009) and studying the role of novel genes in carotenoid biosynthesis.
  • The major area of the research into organelle signalling is identifying the mechanisms by which plants perceive and respond to drought and excess light. The approach utilizes genomic technologies in the model plant, Arabidopsis. Mutations that perturb or enhance chloroplast nuclear communication have been found (Plant Journal 2009). Drought tolerant mutants in Arabidopsis have been studied and collaborative projects to transfer this technology to crop plants, such as wheat and rice have commenced. A related project has demonstrated the extent and speed by which plants communicate the perception of light stress from one leaf to another distal, non-stressed leaf, a process known as Systemic Acquired Acclimation (Plant Cell 2007). This paper was in the top 60 most read articles at the Plant Cell in 2008.

Current Research Interests:

The overarching theme of our research is to determine the controls and regulators of chloroplast function. This includes discovery of genes and metabolites involved in epigenetics, RNA metabolism, chloroplast-nuclear signalling, carotenoid biosynthesis, photosynthesis, drought and chloropolast biogenesis.

1. Organelle biogenesis and Photoprotection. Investigations into chloroplast biogenesis, photosynthesis and photoprotection have revealed new insights into the mechanisms used by plants to produce chloroplasts and how they function in stressful environments.

2. Drought and High light signalling. We are studying the mechanisms by which plants perceive and respond to drought and excess light. This requires signals from the chloroplast to the nucleus, a process known as retrograde signaling. We are applying this knowledge to the development of drought tolerant wheat and canola in collaboration with CSIRO and Pacific Seeds respectively.

3. Epigenetic Regulation of Carotenoid Biosynthesis. Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are essential in photosynthesis and are the source of vitamin A and as antioxidants offer protection against certain cancers and age-related blindness. The goals are to elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms that control carotenoid accumulation and identify novel signals produced from carotenoids that regulate nuclear gene expression and plant development.

A key to our research is to apply cutting edge molecular and biochemical techniques in combination with whole plant physiology to build a picture from gene to crop. The approach utilizes deep sequencing, microarrays, promoter-reporter gene fusions, HPLC and GC-MS to identify novel genes and signalling pathways in Arabidopsis (related to Canola), wheat, avocado and canola.

Click here for Barry's Publications