Deciphering organelle transport mechanisms in plants

A multidisciplinary approach to investigate and identify key transporters involved in regulating mitochondrial biogenesis


Plant growth, productivity and seed yield all depend on organelle function which requires metabolites and proteins to be transported across membranes. This mechanism of transport is carried out by specific transporters that have the ability to transport macromolecules, and regulate organelle function.

We have identified new transporters that are involved in amino acid and protein transport in the mitochondria, chloroplast and peroxisomes. We will assign function to each protein and investigate the importance in regulating organelle biogenesis. This will allow us to modulate plant energy production for optimal growth and to withstand abiotic stress, all of which have agriculturally beneficial consequences.

The transport of materials such as metabolites, protein, amino acids, and nucleotides across organelle membranes is a highly regulated and intricate process in the eukaryotic cell. Transmembrane proteins act as gatekeepers regulating and controlling this crucial process, making them essential for normal plant growth and development.

The aim of this proposal is to functionally assess several newly identified transporter proteins located within three essential plant organelles the mitochondria, chloroplast and peroxisomes. We will investigate the transporter function of these proteins and determine their role in plant growth, development and energy homeostasis.

We have generated a range of Arabidopsis thaliana mutant lines that over express key transporters proteins. Biochemical and molecular analysis will be carried out via protein uptake assays and metabolite transport assays. Furthermore the consequences of altering amino acid and protein transporters abundance will be investigated on a transcriptome, proteome and metabolome level.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Dr Monika Murcha

My research focus is to unravel the underlying mechanisms of protein import and macromolecule targeting, key regulatory elements governing mitochondrial activity and thus cellular activity, plant growth and responses to stress. Using a range of genetic, biochemical and molecular approaches the molecular mechanisms that regulate these processes are being investigated.


External collaborators:


How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Scholarship specific to this project
  • A PhD scholarship valued at $30,000 per annum is available
Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.
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Prestigious postgraduate research scholarships support graduate research training by enabling students of exceptional research promise to undertake higher degrees by research at the University.

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