Dr Heather Knight, B.Sc. (Hons.), Ph.D.
My research interests focus around the molecular basis of plant freezing tolerance. Many plants from temperate parts of the world respond to a lowering of the ambient temperature during autumn, allowing them to make metabolic and physiological changes that protect them from subsequent winter freezing conditions. This program of changes is known as “cold acclimation” and understanding the molecular mechanisms involved will provide potential routes to improving the freezing tolerance trait in crops. We have identified a number of freezing tolerance genes and our work focuses on elucidating the mechanisms whereby the proteins they encode protect plants against sub-zero conditions. Much of the focus of our work has been on the sfr6 mutant of Arabidopsis, which fails to cold acclimate to freezing temperatures. This mutant shows a dramatic loss in cold-inducible gene expression and a consequent failure to accumulate proteins that protect the plant from frost. The SFR6 gene encodes a component (MED16) of the Mediator transcriptional coactivator complex, a multi-protein assembly that activates specific patterns of stress gene transcription. We have shown that MED16 plays a role not only in the regulation of cold-inducible gene expression but in the transcriptional response to other abiotic stresses and endogenous signals. Our research includes investigation of how MED16 along with other Mediator subunits and auxiliary proteins controls these responses.
Department of Biosciences
- Low temperature responses in plants
- Plant stress responses
- Transcriptional regulation
Indicators of Esteem
- 2018: Invited speaker Beijing: Invited to give a seminar at the Chinas Agriculture University, Beijing.
- 2018: Invited speaker UNAM, Mexico: Invited to present a seminar at Dept of Biochemistry, UNAM, Mexico City
- 2017: Appointed as external Examiner, Salford: External Examiner for Masters in Biotechnology, University of Salford
- 2012: Elected member of GARNet advisory Committee (2012-2015):
Elected to serve on the GARNet Committee to represent the interests of the Araidopsis research community.
Invited (With Dr Kerry Franklin of Bristol University) by the Society for Experimental Biology to run a session entitled “Plant temperature responses: shaping development and enhancing survival?” at the SEB’s Annual meeting in Florence, July 2018.
Chapter in book
- Knight, H (2000). Calcium signaling during abiotic stress in plants. In International Review of Cytology. 195: 269-324.
- Pinneh, E.C., Stoppel, R., Knight, H., Knight, M.R., Steel, P.G. & Denny, P.W. (2019). Expression levels of inositol phosphorylceramide synthase modulate plant responses to biotic and abiotic stress in Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0217087.
- Panter, Paige E., Kent, Olivia, Dale, Maeve, Smith, Sarah J., Skipsey, Mark, Thorlby, Glenn, Cummins, Ian, Ramsay, Nathan, Begum, Rifat A., Sanhueza, Dayan, Fry, Stephen C., Knight, Marc R. & Knight, Heather (2019). MUR1-mediated cell-wall fucosylation is required for freezing tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana. New Phytologist 224(2): 1518-1531.
- Calixto, Cristiane P.G., Guo, Wenbin, James, Allan B., Tzioutziou, Nikoleta A., Entizne, Juan Carlos, Panter, Paige E., Knight, Heather, Nimmo, Hugh G., Zhang, Runxuan & Brown, John W.S. (2018). Rapid and Dynamic Alternative Splicing Impacts the Arabidopsis Cold Response Transcriptome. The Plant Cell 30(7): 1424-1444.
- Sorek, N., Szemenyei, H., Sorek, H., Landers, A., Knight, H., Bauer, S., Wemmer, D.E. & Somerville, D.R. (2015). Identification of MEDIATOR16 as the Arabidopsis COBRA suppressor, MONGOOSE1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112(52): 16048-16053.
- Hemsley, P.A., Hurst, C.H., Kaliyadasa, E., Lamb, R., Knight, M.R., De Cothi, E.A., Steele, J.F. & Knight, H. (2014). The Arabidopsis Mediator complex subunits MED16, MED14 and MED2 regulate Mediator and RNA polymerase II recruitment to CBF-responsive cold-regulated genes. The Plant Cell 26(1): 465-484.
- Caroline S Moffat, Robert A Ingle, Deepthi L Wathugala, Nigel J Saunders, Heather Knight & Marc R Knight (2012). ERF5 and ERF6 Play Redundant Roles as Positive Regulators of JA/Et-Mediated Defense against Botrytis cinerea in Arabidopsis. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35995.
- Knight, Marc. R. & Knight, Heather (2012). Low-temperature perception leading to gene expression and cold tolerance in higher plants. New Phytologist 195(4): 737-751.
- Liu, J.L., Knight, H., Hurst, C.H. & Knight, M.R. (2012). Modelling and experimental analysis of the role of interacting cytosolic and vacuolar pools in shaping low temperature calcium signatures in plant cells. Molecular BioSystems 2012(8): 2205-2220.
- Wathugala, D.L., Hemsley, P.A., Moffat, C.S., Cremelie, P., Knight, M.R. & Knight, H. (2012). The Mediator subunit SFR6/MED16 controls defence gene expression mediated by salicylic acid and jasmonate responsive pathways. New Phytologist 195(1): 217-230.
- Wathugala, D.L., Richards, S.A., Knight, H. & Knight, M.R. (2011). OsSFR6 is a functional rice orthologue of SENSITIVE TO FREEZING-6 and can act as a regulator of COR gene expression, osmotic stress and freezing tolerance in Arabidopsis. New Phytologist 191(4): 984-995.
- Whalley, H. J., Sargeant, A. W., Steele, J. F. C., Lacoere, T., Lamb, R., Saunders, N. J., Knight, H. & Knight, M. R. (2011). Transcriptomic Analysis Reveals Calcium Regulation of Specific Promoter Motifs in Arabidopsis. The Plant Cell 23(11): 4079-4095.
- Knight, H., Mugford Nee Garton, S. G., Ulker, B., Gao, D., Thorlby, G. & Knight, M. R. (2009). Identification of SFR6, a key component in cold acclimation acting post-translationally on CBF function. The Plant Journal 58(1): 97-108.
- Ulker, B, Peiter, E, Dixon, DP, Moffat, C, Capper, R, Bouche, N, Edwards, R, Sanders, D, Knight, H & Knight, MR (2008). Getting the most out of publicly available T-DNA insertion lines. Plant Journal 56(4): 665-677.
- Knight, H., Thomson, A. J. & McWatters, H. G. (2008). SENSITIVE TO FREEZING6 Integrates Cellular and Environmental Inputs to the Plant Circadian Clock. Plant Physiology 148(1): 293-303.
- Garton, S., Knight, H., Warren, G., Knight, M. & Thorlby, G. (2007). crinkled leaves 8 - A mutation in the large subunit of ribonucleotide reductase leads to defects in leaf development and chloroplast division in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Journal 50: 118-127.
- Kaplan, B., Davydov, O., Knight, H., Galon, Y., Knight, M.R., Fluhr, R. & Fromm, H. (2006). Rapid transcriptome changes induced by cytosolic Ca2+ transients reveal ABRE-related sequences as Ca2+-responsive cis-elements in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 18: 2733-2748.
- Peiter, E, Maathuis, FJM, Mills, LN, Knight, H, Pelloux, M, Hetherington, AM & Sanders, D (2005). The vacuolar Ca2+-activated channel TPC1 regulates germination and stomatal movement. Nature 434(7031): 404-408.
- Knight, H, Zarka, DG, Okamoto, H, Thomashow, ME & Knight, MR (2004). Abscisic acid induces CBF gene transcription and subsequent induction of cold-regulated genes via the CRT promoter element. Plant Physiology 135(3): 1710-1717.
- Rentel, MC, Lecourieux, D, Ouaked, F, Usher, SL, Petersen, L, Okamoto, H, Knight, H, Peck, SC, Grierson, CS, Hirt, H & Knight, MR (2004). OXI1 kinase is necessary for oxidative burst-mediated signalling inArabidopsis. Nature 427(6977): 858-861.
- Brault, M, Amiar, Z, Pennarun, AM, Monestiez, M, Zhang, ZS, Cornel, D, Dellis, O, Knight, H, Bouteau, FO & Rona, JP (2004). Plasma membrane depolarization induced by abscisic acid in Arabidopsis suspension cells involves reduction of proton pumping in addition to anion channel activation, which are both Ca2+ dependent. Plant Physiology 135(1): 231-243.
- Boyce, JM, Knight, H, Deyholos, M, Openshaw, MR, Galbraith, DW, Warren, G & Knight, MR (2003). The sfr6 mutant of Arabidopsis is defective in transcriptional activation via CBF/DREB1 and DREB2 and shows sensitivity to osmoticstress. Plant Journal 34(4): 395-406.
- Wright, AJ, Knight, H & Knight, MR (2002). Mechanically stimulated TCH3 gene expression in Arabidopsis involvesprotein phosphorylation and EIN6 downstream of calcium. Plant Physiology 128(4): 1402-1409.
- Knight, H & Knight, MR (2001). Abiotic stress signalling pathways: specificity and cross-talk. Trends In Plant Science 6(6): 262-267.
- Knight, H & Knight, MR (2000). Imaging spatial and cellular characteristics of low temperature calcium signature after cold acclimation in Arabidopsis. Journal Of Experimental Botany 51(351): 1679-1686.
- Clayton, H, Knight, MR, Knight, H, McAinsh, MR & Hetherington, AM (1999). Dissection of the ozone-induced calcium signature. Plant Journal 17(5): 575-579.
- Plieth, C, Hansen, UP, Knight, H & Knight, MR (1999). Temperature sensing by plants: the primary characteristics of signal perception and calcium response. Plant Journal 18(5): 491-497.
- Knight, H, Veale, EL, Warren, GJ & Knight, MR (1999). The sfr6 mutation in Arabidopsis suppresses low-temperature inductionof genes dependent on the CRT DRE sequence motif. Plant Cell 11(5): 875-886.
- Knight, H, Brandt, S & Knight, MR (1998). A history of stress alters drought calcium signalling pathways in Arabidopsis. Plant Journal 16(6): 681-687.
- Knight, H, Trewavas, AJ & Knight, MR (1997). Calcium signalling in Arabidopsis thaliana responding to drought and salinity. Plant Journal 12(5): 1067-1078.
- Knight, H, Trewavas, AJ & Knight, MR (1996). Cold calcium signaling in Arabidopsis involves two cellular pools and achange in calcium signature after acclimation. Plant Cell 8(3): 489-503.
- 2012: Control of Specificity in gene expression (£172188.00 from The Leverhulme Trust)
- 2012: Identification of genes essential for freezing tolerance as targets for manipulation in crops (CO-I)
- 2009: BBSRC, “Identifying components of the SFR6 pathway controlling cold acclimation and drought tolerance”, £343,034.07 (as PI).
- 2006: BBSRC ‘Crosstalk between cold and light signalling pathways in Arabidopsis thaliana’, £228k, (as co-applicant).
- 2003: BBSRC ‘The mechanism of action of SFR6, a key regulator of gene expression and cold acclimation’, £196k, (as recognised researcher).
- 2002: BBSRC ‘The molecular basis of low temperature perception and calcium signalling in Arabidopsis’, £244k, (as co-applicant).
- 2001: BBSRC ‘Molecular basis for discrimination between drought and cold in Arabidopsis’, £202k, (as co-applicant).