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Dr Alexander Jones

Dr Alexander Jones

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge
47 Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR
Office Phone: +44(0)1223 761169


During my undergraduate studies in plant biology at the University of California, Davis, I joined the lab of Judy Callis in order to investigate the mechanisms of auxin perception and signal transduction. I was part of a team using a forward genetics approach to screen for regulators of auxin mediated degradation of the AUX/IAA proteins, which is a key first step in auxin signaling pathways that regulate nearly all aspects of plant growth and development.

As I am particularly interested in how plant development and physiology varies to suit environmental conditions, I decided to focus on plant-microbe interactions during my PhD studies in the lab of Mary Wildermuth at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition to interrogating the disease relevance of high-affinity iron acquisition by the plant pathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato, I explored the mechanisms governing the spatio-temporal regulation of the plant immune hormone salicylic acid. However, this line of research was eventually limited by the lack of suitable tools to directly quantify salicylic acid levels in living tissues.

I joined the lab of Wolf Frommer at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford, CA where I endeavored to expand the hormone quantification toolbox. The Frommer lab had succeeded in generating a suite of fluorescent biosensors based on Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) that detect patterns and dynamics of an array of small molecule metabolites such as glucose and sucrose. In order to engineer FRET biosensors for the phytohormones, I first developed a high-throughput biosensor expression and screening platform to accelerate the engineering process. I then applied this platform to generate and screen thousands of hormone biosensor constructs for response to an array of phytohormones. The first success from this screen detects the key abiotic stress hormone Abscisic Acid (ABA) and is termed ABACUS for ABA Concentration and Uptake Sensor. ABACUS allowed for investigation of ABA patterns dynamics in growing roots at high spatial and temporal resolution. I also engineered and optimized a second FRET biosensor that detects the key growth hormone gibberellin (GA) that is termed Gibberellin Perception Sensor (GPS). Studies using current and next generation ABACUS and GPS biosensors will be the initial focus of my research group at SLCU.

In addition to studying plant hormone patterns and dynamics during my postdoc in the Frommer lab, I coordinated a collaborative project aimed at generating and analyzing a large-scale protein-protein interaction database for Arabidopsis membrane proteins and signaling proteins. The result of these efforts represents a major step forward in understanding the interaction network of the plant proteome and augments our bioinformatic resources for functional genomics. The entire database is searchable here

Key Publications

Jones AM. A new look at stress: abscisic acid patterns and dynamics at high-resolution. New Phytologist 2015. PMID: 26201893

Jones AM, Xuan Y, Xu M, Wang RS et al. Border control – a membrane-linked interactome of Arabidopsis. Science 2014. PMID: 24833385

Jones AM, Danielson JA, ManojKumar S, Lanquar V, Grossman G, Frommer WB. Abscisic acid dynamics in roots detected with genetically encoded FRET biosensors. eLife 2014. PMID: 24737862

            Highlighted in eLife Insight article: Choi W-G, Gilroy S. eLife. 2014; 3: e02763.

            Highlighted in TheScientist Modus Operandi article: Williams R. Stressing and FRETing. August 1st 2014.

Jones AM*, Grossman G*, Frommer WB. In vivo biochemistry: Applications for small molecule biosensors in plant biology. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 2013. PMID: 23587939 *equal contribution

Okumoto S*, Jones A*, Frommer WB. Quantitative imaging with fluorescent biosensors. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2012.  PMID: 22404462 *equal contribution

Jones AM, Wildermuth MC. The phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000 has three high-affinity iron-scavenging systems functional under iron limitation conditions but dispensable for pathogenesis. J Bacteriol. 2011.  PMID: 21441525

Jones AM, Lindow SE, Wildermuth MC. Salicylic acid, yersiniabactin, and pyoverdin production by the model phytopathogen Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000: synthesis, regulation, and impact on tomato and Arabidopsis host plants. J Bacteriol. 2007.  PMID: 17660289