ChemBioPlants Network

ChemBioPlants Network University of Oxford

Justin Benesch

The research is focussed on the structure and dynamics of macromolecules, and in particular under conditions of cellular stress. Plants are exposed to a variety of abiotic stresses, including thermal extremes, lack or excess of water, and exposure to (or deficiency in) salts and minerals. Many proteins, spanning a spectrum of functions, display altered expression levels under these different stress conditions. Notable by their appearance under many stress conditions are the molecular chaperones, that acting to rapidly and efficiently stabilise proteins that are perturbed under conditions of cellular stress. However, the molecular mechanisms by which this proceeds is poorly understood. Plants, especially those from hot climates, have large numbers of chaperones that form a plastic network of hetero-oligomers with the potential for variation in structure and substrate interactions. We have developed native mass spectrometry (MS) and other state-of-the-art structural approaches, as well as a new in vitro stress response assays that can, for the first time, determine the topology and dynamics of these interactions and their functional consequences. This work promised to decode how plants deliver stress tolerance, and novel means to regulate and manipulate this important behaviour.