Dr Stuart Thompson

Senior Lecturer

+44 20 7911 5000 ext 64143
115 New Cavendish Street London W1W 6UW

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2000-present: Senior Lecturer in Plant Biochemistry, University of Westminster

1992-2000: Research Associate in the Division of Biological Sciences at Lancaster University investigating the relationship between growth, turgor pressure and cell wall rheology in maize leaves and tomato fruit, including use of a single cell pressure probe.

1987-1991: Doctoral research into cell wall biochemistry and regulation of abscission into cell wall biochemistry and regulation of abscission at the School of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (Linacre College).

Expertise: Plant cell wall biochemistry and biophysics, polymer rheology, plant water relations.

Stuart's main interest is in the relationships between plant cell wall biochemistry, plant cell wall mechanical behaviour and plant physiology. The internal turgor pressures in plant cells are generally very high (typically >0.5 MPa in well watered plants). The cell walls must contain these pressures but the interaction between pressure and tension in the wall is also critical in producing light flexible structures, such as leaves. This situation also presents plants with a problem, as for plant cells to grow the cell wall must become sufficiently plastic for cells to become larger without losing its structural integrity. His main research interest is how plants manipulate the chemical components of their cell walls in order to control their structural properties allowing cell expansion to occur in a controlled and regulated fashion.

Stuart's work is primarily based upon measurement of the biomechanical behaviour of growing plant tissues by creep extensiometry and examining the effect of different chemical, physical and enzymic treatments on the rate of extension. They are also using the Acetobacter xylinum to produce "artificial plant cell walls" as this bacterium produces cellulose microfibrils that resemble those found in plant cell walls.

These mechanical measurements have been interpreted using models from synthetic polymer rheology and this approach has generated a number of useful and novel insights into the behaviour of plant cell walls, including discovery of a completely new mechanism of growth inhibition under drought conditions.

Current Research

Recent results have shown that the spacing between cellulose microfibrils and other cell wall components has a substantial effect on the mechanical properties in growing cell walls. This suggests that the water content of the wall has important effects on wall behaviour and therefore has implications for cell and plant physiology. We are currently investigating what wall components are involved in regulating cell wall spacing and water content, whether control of wall spacing is an element of growth regulation in vivo, and whether alteration of wall composition to maintain wall extensibility under conditions of low water availability is involved in adaptation to drought conditions.

Research projects

  • Cell wall "free volume" as a determinant of mechanical properties (plant physiology, plant cell wall biochemistry and biomechanical analysis).
  • Production of composites of Gluconacetobacter cellulose with other biopolymers (culture of G. xylinum, biomechanical analysis, polymer synthesis and/or polysaccharide purification).
  • The mechanism of trap closure Venus flytrap (cell wall biochemistry, plant physiology and water relations, biomechanical analysis).
  • Cell wall mechanical behaviour and regulation of plant growth (cell wall biochemistry, enzyme and protein purification, biomechanical analysis).

Research Groups / Key Appointments

2009

Untangling tensions: a consideration of the epidermal-growth-control and developmental-hydraulic interpretations of tissue tension (2009)
Thompson, D.S. 2009. Untangling tensions: a consideration of the epidermal-growth-control and developmental-hydraulic interpretations of tissue tension. Journal of Plant Physiology. 166 (16), pp. 1717-1719.
Commentary on "my embarrassment at not knowing Heinich". Untangling tensions: a consideration of epidermal-growth-control and developmental-hydraulic interpretations of tissue tension. (2009)
Thompson, D.S. 2009. Commentary on "my embarrassment at not knowing Heinich". Untangling tensions: a consideration of epidermal-growth-control and developmental-hydraulic interpretations of tissue tension. Journal of Plant Physiology. 166 (16), pp. 1713-1716.

2008

Space and time in the plant cell wall: relationships between cell type, cell wall rheology and cell function (2008)
Thompson, D.S. 2008. Space and time in the plant cell wall: relationships between cell type, cell wall rheology and cell function. Annals of Botany. 108 (2), pp. 203-211.

2007

Cell wall water content has a direct effect on extensibility in growing hypocotyls of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) (2007)
Evered, C., Majevadia, B. and Thompson, D.S. 2007. Cell wall water content has a direct effect on extensibility in growing hypocotyls of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). Journal of Experimental Botany. 58 (12), pp. 3361-3371.

2006

The force in spinach (2006)
Thompson, D.S. 2006. The force in spinach. Guardian.

2005

How do cell walls regulate plant growth? (2005)
Thompson, D.S. 2005. How do cell walls regulate plant growth? Journal of Experimental Botany. 56 (419), pp. 2275-2285.

2001

Extensiometric determination of the rheological properties of the epidermis of growing tomato fruit (2001)
Thompson, D.S. 2001. Extensiometric determination of the rheological properties of the epidermis of growing tomato fruit. Journal of Experimental Botany. 52 (359), pp. 1291-1301.

2000

Peroxidase isozyme patterns in the skin of maturing tomato fruit (2000)
Andrews, J., Malone, M., Thompson, D.S., Ho, L.C. and Burton, K.S. 2000. Peroxidase isozyme patterns in the skin of maturing tomato fruit. Plant, Cell & Environment. 23 (4), pp. 415-422.
Regulation of leaf and fruit growth in plants growing in drying soil: exploitation of the plants' chemical signalling system and hydraulic architecture to increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture (2000)
Davies, W.J., Bacon, M.A., Thompson, D.S., Sobeih, W. and González Rodríguez, L. 2000. Regulation of leaf and fruit growth in plants growing in drying soil: exploitation of the plants' chemical signalling system and hydraulic architecture to increase the efficiency of water use in agriculture. Journal of Experimental Botany. 51 (530), pp. 1617-1626.

1999

Interactions between environment, fruit water relations and fruit growth (1999)
Thompson, D.S., Smith, P.W., Davies, W.J. and Ho, L.C. 1999. Interactions between environment, fruit water relations and fruit growth. Acta Horticulturae. 487, pp. 65-70.

1998

Regulation of tomato fruit growth by epidermal cell wall enzymes (1998)
Thompson, D.S., Davies, W.J. and Ho, L.C. 1998. Regulation of tomato fruit growth by epidermal cell wall enzymes. Plant, Cell & Environment. 21 (6), pp. 589-599.
Transdifferentiation of mature cortical cells to functional abscission cells in bean (1998)
McManus, M.T., Thompson, D.S., Merriman, C., Lyne, L. and Osborne, D.J. 1998. Transdifferentiation of mature cortical cells to functional abscission cells in bean. Plant Physiology. 116 (3), pp. 891-899.

1997

Multiple signals and mechanisms that regulate leaf growth and stomatal behaviour during water deficit (1997)
Thompson, D.S., Wilkinson, S., Bacon, M.A. and Davies, W.J. 1997. Multiple signals and mechanisms that regulate leaf growth and stomatal behaviour during water deficit. Physiologia Plantarum. 100 (2), pp. 303-313.
Can cell wall peroxidase activity explain the leaf growth response of Lolium temulentum L. during drought? (1997)
Bacon, M.A., Thompson, D.S. and Davies, W.J. 1997. Can cell wall peroxidase activity explain the leaf growth response of Lolium temulentum L. during drought? Journal of Experimental Botany. 48 (12), pp. 2075-2085.

1994

A role for the stele in inter tissue signalling in the initiation of abscission in bean leaves (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) (1994)
Thompson, D.S. and Osborne, D.J. 1994. A role for the stele in inter tissue signalling in the initiation of abscission in bean leaves (Phaseolus vulgaris L.). Plant Physiology. 105 (1), pp. 341-347.

1998

Manipulation of growth of horticultural crops under environmental stress (1998)
Davies, W.J., Thompson, D.S. and Taylor, J.E. 1998. Manipulation of growth of horticultural crops under environmental stress. in: Cockshull, K.E., Gray, D., Seymour, G.B. and Thomas, B. (ed.) Genetic and environmental manipulation of horticultural crops CABI Publishing. pp. 154-174

1992

Target or non-target: hormonal signal perception and response in the determination of cell performance (1992)
Osborne, D.J. and Thompson, D.S. 1992. Target or non-target: hormonal signal perception and response in the determination of cell performance. in: Karssen, C.M., van Loon, L.C. and Vreugdenhil, D. (ed.) Proceedings in Plant Growth Regulation Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 237-247

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