skip to content

Sainsbury Laboratory

Environmental regulation of plant development


Research interests

My research interests lie in environmental regulation of plant development. I am fascinated by the diverse range morphological decisions that plants can make and the profound effects on survivability and yields that developmental plasticity brings. As phytohormones integrate environmental signals with development, in a cell and tissue specific manner, to coordinate these decisions, understanding their localisation and dynamics is essential to understanding development.


Research in the Jones Group

When roots experience dehydration, a signal is sent to the leaves, which then accumulate abscisic acid (ABA). Abscisic acid is a plant hormone that famously closes the microscopic pores on leaves (stomata), to limit systemic water loss. Interestingly, leaf water loss can also cause changes in root growth responses and architecture.

Increasing transpiration or lowering relative humidity (RH) can promote root growth in many species, even when roots are well hydrated. The molecular mechanism remains elusive, but we predicted that ABA could be coordinating these root growth responses. Unfortunately relatively little is known of where, when and how ABA accumulates due to a lack of high-resolution, sensitive reporters.



In the Jones group, I have led the Abscisic Acid Concentration and Uptake Sensor 2 project (ABACUS - Jones et al. 2014), where we developed new high affinity sensors for ABA (Rowe et al. under review). ABACUS2 allows us to measure hormone concentrations at the cellular level in living plants, revealing endogenous ABA patterns in Arabidopsis thaliana. I also developed an easy-to-use free image analysis toolset called FRETENATOR allowing users to quickly overcome one of the main obstacles in biosensor imaging ( , Rowe Rizza and Jones 2022).


Leaf water status regulates root growth through ABA

The cellular resolution afforded by ABACUS2 biosensors, allowed us to show that foliar drying can also regulate root ABA accumulation (Rowe et al. under review). This root ABA is important to maintain root growth under low humidity, enabling plants to maintain foraging of deeper soil for water uptake. The root ABA comes from the phloem, which transports sugars and hormones from the shoot and is unloaded in the root tip. Therefore, the root and shoot can each systemically regulate each other’s responses to stresses that may only be experienced locally, providing a robust system to maintain plant water status. My future work will follow the intra- and inter-organ coordination under drought and low humidity stress through ABA.


Work before joining SLCU

A fascination with development led me to my postgraduate work with Keith Lindsey in Durham.  Here we used modelling and experimental approaches to understand how the interactions between different hormones control root growth, paying particular attention to the effects of ABA and osmotic stress (e.g. Rowe et al. 2016, Moore et al. 2015).

After my PhD, I wanted experience with a different developmental system, so I spent 20 months working with Stuart Casson, in Sheffield. Here we investigated light mediated stomatal development and found a novel developmental response to light status, linking photosynthetic status with gas exchange (Zoulias et al 2021).


Selected publications

  1. J. Rowe, M. Grangé-Guermente, M. Exposito-Rodriguez, R. Wimalasekera, M. Lenz, K. Shetty, S. Cutler, A. M. Jones, Next-generation ABACUS biosensors reveal cellular ABA dynamics driving root growth at low aerial humidity. Under review
  2. J. H. Rowe, A. Rizza, A. M. Jones, Quantifying phytohormones in vivo with FRET biosensors and the FRETENATOR analysis toolset in Environmental Responses in Plants (Humana, New York, NY, 2022;, pp. 239–253.
  3. J. H. Rowe, A. M. Jones, Focus on biosensors: Looking through the lens of quantitative biology. Quant. Plant Biol. 2 (2021), doi:10.1017/QPB.2021.10.
  4. J. H. Rowe, J. F. Topping, J. Liu, K. Lindsey, Abscisic acid regulates root growth under osmotic stress conditions via an interacting hormonal network with cytokinin, ethylene and auxin. New Phytol. 211, 225–239 (2016).
  5. N. Zoulias, J. Rowe, E. E. Thomson, M. Dabrowska, H. Sutherland, G. E. Degen, M. P. Johnson, S. E. Sedelnikova, G. E. Hulmes, E. H. Hettema, Inhibition of Arabidopsis stomatal development by plastoquinone oxidation. Curr. Biol. 31, 5622–5632 (2021).
  6. P. Mehra, B. K. Pandey, D. Melebari, J. Banda, N. Leftley, V. Couveur, J. Rowe, M. Anfang, H. De Gernier, E. Morris, C. J. Sturrock, S. J. Mooney, R. Swarup, C. Faulkner, T. Beeckman, R. P. Bhal, M. J. Bennett, Hydraulic flux responsive hormone redistribution determines root branching. Under review
  7. R. Albuquerque-Martins, D. Szakonyi, J. Rowe, A. M. Jones, P. Duque, bioRxiv, Under review, doi:10.1101/2022.02.03.479016.
  8. S. Moore, X. Zhang, A. Mudge, J. H. Rowe, J. F. Topping, J. Liu, K. Lindsey, Spatiotemporal modelling of hormonal crosstalk explains the level and patterning of hormones and gene expression in Arabidopsis thaliana wild-type and mutant roots. New Phytol. 207, 1110–1122 (2015).


Research Associate
Dr Jim  Rowe

Contact Details

Sainsbury Laboratory
47 Bateman Street