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Dr Phil Wigge

Dr Phil Wigge

Research Group Leader

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR
Office Phone: +44(0)1223 761127


Phil received a Master in Biochemistry from Oxford University (1996) where he worked in David Sherratt’s lab on mechanisms of site-specific recombination. Phil studied for his PhD in John Kilmartin’s lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, where he learnt biochemistry in budding yeast, and received his PhD from Cambridge in 2000. Notable developments included the biochemical analysis of the yeast spindle and pole body proteome and the identification of the NDC80 complex. Phil started working on plants in 2000 in Detlef Weigel’s lab at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA. At the Salk, and later at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, when Detlef became an MPI director. Phil studied FT, and mechanisms by which it activates flowering. Phil started his own group working on mechanisms of temperature perception at the John Innes Centre in 2005, where he was awarded tenure in 2010. Phil will join the Sainsbury Laboratory as a group leader in January 2012.

Research Interests

Phil’s group is interested in how temperature is perceived by plants, and how these signals are integrated into development. To address these questions, the lab is applying a multi-disciplinary approach, exploiting plant genetics, biochemical analyses and modelling approaches. Key questions being addressed by the lab include:

How is temperature perceived?

How eukaryotes sense temperature is poorly understood. Plants are sessile organisms, and highly responsive to small differences in temperature, making them ideal systems to identify the signal transduction pathways involved in temperature sensing. To address this question we have carried out a genetic screen for components of the temperature perception pathway in Arabidopsis. This screen revealed the importance of H2A.Z-nucleosomes in mediating temperature responses on transcription. We are currently mapping many more genes in the temperature perception pathway to understand more fully how temperature is sensed. We are also studying the mechanistic basis of temperature perception through a collaboration with the structural biology group of Daniela Rhodes at the MRC-LMB.

What is the regulatory logic underpinning the floral transition?

The floral transition is an important developmental decision, and temperature information is key for the correct timing of flowering. We are analysing how warm temperature promotes flowering. To understand the regulatory logic underpinning the floral transition we have adopted a modelling approach with the group of Richard Morris at the JIC.

What is the temperature epigenome?

Small changes in temperature result in large changes in gene expression globally. The temperature transcriptome is tightly regulated by alternative nucleosomes containing H2A.Z, and we are analysing how these marks change in response to temperature. Is it possible to engineer altered temperature perception status? It is predicted that for every 1 ºC increase in temperature there is a corresponding drop of about 10 % in crop yields. This raises the interesting possibility that it might be possible to breed plants with optimised temperature responses for particular climates. We working on several approaches to alter temperature responsiveness in a tissue specific manner.

Key Publications

Chloroplast signalling gates thermotolerance in Arabidopsis. Dickinson, P.J., Kumar, M., Martinho, C., Yoo, S.J., Lan, H., Artavanis, G., Charoensawan, V., Schöttler, M.A., Bock, R., Jaeger, K.E., and Wigge, P.A. (2018) Cell Reports 22, 1-9.

Transcriptional regulation of the ambient temperature response by H2A.Z-nucleosomes and HSF1 transcription factors in Arabidopsis. Cortijo S., Charoensawan V., Brestovitsky A., Buning R., Ravarani C., Rhodes D., van Noort J., Jaeger K.E, and Wigge P.A (2017).  Mol. Plant. doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2017.08.014.

The G-box transcriptional regulatory code in Arabidopsis
Daphne Ezer, Samuel JK Shepherd, Anna Brestovitsky, Patrick Dickinson, Sandra Cortijo, Varodom Charoensawan, Mathew S Box, Surojit Biswas, Katja Jaeger, Philip A. Wigge. Published September 2017.  

The evening complex coordinates environmental and endogenous signals in Arabidopsis., Ezer D, Jung JH, Lan H, Biswas S, Gregoire L, Box MS, Charoensawan V, Cortijo S, Lai X, Stöckle D, Zubieta C, Jaeger KE, Wigge PA., Nat Plants. 2017 Jun 26;3:17087. doi: 10.1038/nplants.2017.87., PMID:28650433

Tradict enables accurate prediction of eukaryotic transcriptional states from 100 marker genes, Biswas S, Kerner K, Teixeira PJPL, Dangl JL, Jojic V, Wigge PA. Nat Commun. 2017 May 5;8:15309. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15309. PMID: 28474674 

Plant Physiology: Out in the Midday Sun, Plants Keep Their Cool, Ezer D, Wigge PA., Curr Biol. 2017 Jan 9;27(1):R28-R30. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.11.026., PMID: 28073019

Phytochromes Function as Thermosensors in Arabidopsis. Jung JH., Domijan M., Klose C., Biswas S., Ezer D., Gao M., Khattak AK., Box MS., Charoensawan V., Cortijo S., Kumar M., Grant A., Locke JC., Schäfer E., Jaeger KE., Wigge PA. Science in press. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf6005

H2A.Z containing nucleosomes mediate the thermosensory response in Arabidopsis. Kumar SV and Wigge PA Cell: 140:136-47

FT protein acts as a long-range signal in Arabidopsis. Jaeger KE, Wigge PA. Curr Biol. 2007 Jun 19;17(12):1050-4. Epub 2007 May 31.

Integration of spatial and temporal information during floral induction in Arabidopsis. Wigge PA, Kim MC, Jaeger KE, Busch W, Schmid M, Lohmann J, Weigel D. Science. 2005 Aug 12;309(5737):1056-9.


Plant chemical biology: Florigen takes two to tango. Mylne JS, Wigge PA. Nat Chem Biol. 2011 Sep 19;7(10):665-6. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.666.

FT, a mobile developmental signal in plants. Wigge PA. Curr Biol. 2011 May 10;21(9):R374-8.

Ambient temperature perception in plants. Samach A, Wigge PA. Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2005 Oct;8(5):483-6. Review.

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Research supported by grants from:

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