skip to content

Sainsbury Laboratory


Heather completed an integrated Master’s in Biology at the University of Durham, submitting her thesis on the role of auxin and ethylene in the regulation of microtubule anisotropy in the Arabidopsis root in the lab of Professor Keith Lindsay. Heather then moved to The John Innes Centre in Norwich to complete her PhD in the lab of Professor Lars Ostergaard. During her PhD Heather worked on understanding the relative contributions of the canonical and ETT-mediated auxin signalling pathways in gynoecium development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Heather then joined the Jönsson lab at SLCU in 2021 to work on the phytohormone regulation of meristematic tissues.


Research interests

I am primarily interested in the phytohormone mediated regulation of plant growth and morphogenesis. I am especially interested in understanding the roles of “non-canonical” auxin pathways in processes which have traditionally been linked to canonical auxin signalling, such as the regulation of phyllotaxis and the emergence of organ primordia on the flanks of the meristem. I am utilising a range of methods in my research including genetic studies, confocal microscopy, and computational methods to quantitatively characterise phenotypes in the shoot apical meristems of a range of auxin signalling mutants. I am also interested in the interplay between auxin and cytokinin. 

An interesting question is how alterations in the size or activity of the shoot apical meristem within mutants impact the gross morphology of a plant, and this is an area I am actively exploring by time lapse imaging the growth of plant rosettes. 



Heather M. McLaughlinBhavani NatarajanLars Østergaard (2022), Canonical and ETT-mediated auxin signalling pathways synergistically promote gynoecium development in Arabidopsis thalianabioRxiv 2023.03.02.530771; doi:


Deb, J., Bland, H. M. & Østergaard, L. (2018), Developmental cartography: coordination via hormonal and genetic interactions during gynoecium formation. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 41: 54-60.


Kuhn, A., Ramans Harborough, S., McLaughlin, H. M., Natarajan, B., Verstraeten, I., Friml, J., Kepinski, S. & Østergaard, L. (2020), Direct ETTIN-auxin interaction controls chromatin states in gynoecium development. eLife, 9:e51787, DOI: 10.7554/eLife.51787.


McLaughlin, H. M., Ang, A. C. H. & Østergaard, L. (2021), Noncanonical auxin signaling, Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Biology. DOI: 10.1101/cshperspect.a039917  


Research Associate
Heather McLaughlin profile photo

Contact Details

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
47 Bateman Street