Discovering how respiration affects plant development

Uncovering the hidden role of proteins and respiratory pathways in plants

The mitochondrion is the powerhouse of the eukaryote cell by synthesis of ATP via electron transport chain complexes coupled with the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Complex II (succinate dehydrogenase; SDH) has a central role in mitochondrial metabolism as a component of both the electron transport chain and the TCA cycle.

Complex II catalyses the oxidation of succinate to fumarate. We have recently shown that beyond its role in respiration, this protein complex is also involved in defence signalling in plants by helping plants to respond to invading organisms like pathogenic fungi and it also alter the growth of roots.

The objective of this project is to use knockout and overexpressing lines of plant specific complex II subunits to characterise their functions at the physiological, proteomic and metabolomic levels and therefore to uncover the hidden role of these proteins and this respiratory pathway in plants.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Belt K, Huang S, Thatcher LF, Casarotto H, Singh KB, Van Aken O, Millar AH (2017) Salicylic Acid-Dependent Plant Stress Signaling via Mitochondrial Succinate Dehydrogenase. Plant Physiology 173:2029-2040.

Huang S, Millar AH (2013) Succinate dehydrogenase: the complex roles of a simple enzyme. Current Opinion in Plant Biology  16:344-9.

Huang S, Taylor NL, Ströher E, Fenske R, Millar AH (2013) Succinate dehydrogenase assembly factor 2 is needed for assembly and activity of mitochondrial complex II and for normal root elongation in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 2013 73(3):429-41.

Research team leader: Professor Harvey Millar

I am a protein biochemist focused on plant biology in the School of Molecular Sciences. I am the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellent in Plant Energy Biology. My research aims to understand the role respiration plays in the primary carbon and nitrogen metabolism of plants and their response to oxidative stress, and the dynamics of the plant proteome under limiting conditions.

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.


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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