Alyson Kim Tobin, FSB


  • KY16 9TS

    United Kingdom

Personal profile

Research overview

Current research is into nitrogen assimilation and protein remobilisation during grain filling in barley. We are investigating the genes that encode glutamine synthetase, the enzyme responsible for ammonium assimilation into the first organic product, glutamine. Partitioning of nitrogen during the grain-filling stage is an important determinant of the crop's value for food and for malting. The expression and location of the 4 genes for glutamine synthetase are currently under investigation in my laboratory, with the aim of modifying the grain content of carbon and nitrogen in this major cereal crop.

We also study the development and division of mitochondria in plants, using green fluorescent protein as a marker that enables us to view mitochondria in living cells. Our work has led to the identification of a number of mutants of mitochondrial form and distribution in plants, with subsequent work leading to the isolation of candidate genes

We have developed novel techniques for isolating plastids from leaf epidermal cells and use proteomics methods to start to characterise their metabolic potential. Our work has identified structural and functional differences between these plastids and those of the photosynthetically active mesopyll cells.

 Cellular and subcellular level studies of plant responses to the environment, with particular interest in nitrogen nutrition and light (including ultraviolet B radiation). Studies of the response of Antarctic plants to enhanced UV-B radiation and drought stress, including their susceptibility to DNA-damaging stresses and their associated ability to repair DNA damage.

Technical approaches include: production of transgenic plants; in situ hybridisation and immunolocalisation for gene and protein expression; confocal and fluorescence microscopy and real-time imaging of living mitochondria; analysis of plant proteins and DNA; proteomics and metabolomics analysis; plant growth analysis; subcellular studies, particularly the isolation of plant cell organelles.

Other expertise

School liaison officer for BBSRC. Providing links to local schools and programmes based at the St Andrews Botanic Garden.

Future research

Analysis of organelle proteins (subproteomics) in higher plants. Drought and DNA damage in plants under field conditions

Industrial relevance

Interaction with commercial growers- e.g. responses of plants and plant products to environmental stresses; regulation of synthesis of plant products (both food and non-food).

Academic/Professional Qualification

School liaison officer for BBSRC. Providing links to local schools and programmes based at the St Andrews Botanic Garden.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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