Steve Kelly

Department of Plant Sciences
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK

Systems Biology Research Fellow & Browne Research Fellow, The Queen's College

Steve Kelly's research is focussed on addressing this knowledge gap employing innovative high-throughput experimental and computational strategies.

Our work exploits a natural sub-division of photosynthesis that occurs in C4 plants unravelling the regulatory networks that underpin life on earth.

Photosynthesis is responsible for harvesting all of the energy that the Earth obtains from the Sun. Thus, understanding how photosynthesis is regulated is of great fundamental importance to both food security and production of renewable sources of bio-energy.

Around 5000 nuclear-encoded genes, comprising cytosolic enzymes and components of the chloroplast, are collectively referred to as “photosynthetic genes.” Despite our detailed understanding of the biochemistry and cell biology of photosynthesis, we know little of the molecular regulators that coordinate the expression of these photosynthetic genes.

Given that photosynthesis is dynamically controlled in response to a multitude of environmental and developmental cues it is likely that a large number of other transcription factors are involved in positive and inhibitory regulation of this process. These transcription factors are not known. This lack of knowledge of how nuclear photosynthetic genes are regulated represents the most significant gap in our understanding of photosynthesis. Moreover it hinders international efforts to improve the yields of food and bio-fuel crops.


Recent Relevant Publications: 

Hughes, T.E., Langdale, J.A., and Kelly, S. (2014). The impact of widespread regulatory neofunctionalisation on homeolog gene evolution following whole genome duplication in maize. Genome Research – PDF

Aubry, S., Kelly, S., Kümpers, B.M.C., Smith-Unna, R.D., Hibberd, J.M. (2014). Deep evolutionary comparison of gene expression identifies parallel recruitment of trans-factors in two independent origins of C4 photosynthesis. PLoS Genetics – PDF

Li, F.W., Villarreal, J.C., Kelly, S., Rothfels, C.J., Melkonian, M., Frangedakis, E., Ruhsam, M., Sigel, E.M., Der, J.P., Pittermann, J., Burge, Pokorny, L., Larsson, A., Chen, T., Weststrand, S., Thomas, P., Carpenter, E., Zhang, Y., Tian, Z., Chen, L., Yan, Z., Zhu, Y., Sun, X., Wang, J., Stevenson, D., Crandall-Stotler, B., Shaw, A.J., Deyholos, M.K., Soltis, D.E., Graham, S., Windham, M.D., Langdale, J.A., Wong, G.K., Mathews, S., and Pryer, K.M. (2014). Horizontal transfer of an adaptive chimeric photoreceptor from bryophytes to ferns. PNAS – PDF

– Link to comment in the New York Times
– Link to comment in The Economist
– Link to comment in National Geographic

Kelly, S., Grenyer, R., and Scotland, R.W. (2014) Phylogenetic trees do not reliably predict feature diversity. Diversity and Distributions – PDF

– Link to comment on Oxford University science blog

Christin, P.A., Arakaki, M., Osborne, C.P., Bräutigam, A., Sage, R.F., Hibberd, J.M., Kelly, S., Covshoff, S., Wong, G.K., Hancock, L., Edwards, E.J.(2014) Shared origins of a key enzyme during the evolution of C4 and CAM metabolism Journal of Experimental Botany – PDF

Holden, J.M., Koreny, L., Obado, S., Ratushny, A.V., Chen, W.M., Chiang, J.H., Kelly, S., Chait, B.T., Aitchison, J.D., Rout, M.P. and Field, M.C(2014) Nuclear pore complex evolution: A trypanosome Mlp analog functions in chromosomal segregation but lacks transcriptional barrier activity. Molecular Biology of the Cell – PDF