Dr Stephen A Rolfe

Dr Steve Rolfe

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0039

Email: s.rolfe@sheffield.ac.uk

Room D65, Alfred Denny Building


BSc (1984) Imperial College of Science and Technology, London
PhD (1988) University of Cambridge
European Molecular Biology Fellow, University of California Los Angeles (1988-1991)
Lecturer, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (1991-2003)
Senior Lecturer, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (2004-present)
Director of Teaching, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (2008-2015 )

Key Research Interests

My research focuses on plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses using biological imaging techniques. I lead the P3 Wolfson Centre for Plant Disease Phenomics where we use high-throughput imaging to explore quantitative resistance to plant diseases. We use chlorophyll fluorescence and multi-spectral imaging to quantify disease development and the impact on host plants.

Current projects are focussed on diseases of Brassicas including clubroot and light leaf spot. My group also looks at microbial communities in natural environments using metagenomic approaches. This includes plant pathogen populations but also the root microbiome and degradation of xenobiotics in contaminated environments. Work in my group is funded by the BBSRC, the Wolfson Foundation, Bayer Crop Sciences, Shell Aviation and Airbus.


Dr Stephen Rolfe won the Departmental Teacher of Year award in 2007.

At level 1, I am module coordinator for APS135 Skills for Biologists 1 with responsibility for the IT aspects of the course.

At level 2 I teach APS206 Plant, Cell & Environment and APS216 Biotechnology and Food. These modules reflect my long–standing interest in plant molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry and cover everything from the perception of light by plants through to the adoption of GM crops in modern agriculture. This theme continues in level 3 where I teach APS308 Environmental Regulation in Plants.

In recent years my research has expanded to consider environmental microbiology, particularly contaminated environments. I teach the module APS325 Life in Extreme Environments where I cover everything from life in hot springs, deep sea vents, other planets (maybe…) to contaminated aquifers in Wolverhampton! I am also very interested in the ethics of biology and how this affects wider society. The module APS326 Biology and Ethics covers a wide range of ethical areas from the impact of advances in genomic sequencing on individuals rights through to patents and Intellectual Property Rights and how they affect developments in agriculture. The aim of this course is to introduce students to key ethical issues but then let them explore topics that are of particular interest or relevance to them.

I have supervised a number of level 4 MBiolSci students – for example last year Joanna Scales examined how clubroot, a disease of Brassicas, alters developmental pathways in its host.

Professional Activities (1995 onwards)

External examiner Reading University (2014-2016)

External examiner SRUC (Scotland's Rural College), Edinburgh, UK (2016-present)

Postdoctoral Staff

Dr Alex McFarlane

Dr Henry Nicholls

Current Research Students

Luke Cartwright
Elisa Clagnan
Juan Mujica
Raisa Raisa
Christina Paparokidou
Sarah Sommer
Fokion Chatziavgerinos

Recent Publications (2001 to date)

van Campen J, Yaapar MN, Narawatthana S, Lehmeier C, Wanchana S, Thakur V, Chater C, Kelly S, Rolfe SA, Quick WP, & Fleming AJ (2016) Combined Chlorophyll Fluorescence and Transcriptomic Analysis Identifies the P3/P4 Transition as a Key stage in Rice Leaf Photosynthetic Development Plant Physiology doi:10.1104/pp.15.01624 in press

Malinowski R, Novak O, Borhan MH, Spichal L, Strnad M, Rolfe SA. (2016) The role of cytokinins in clubroot disease. European Journal of Plant Pathology DOI: 10.1007/s10658-015-0845-y in press

Thornton SF, Morgan P, Rolfe SA. (2016) Bioremediation of hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents in groundwater. In: Protocols for Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology. Eds McGenity TJ, Timmis KN, Nogales B, Springer Verlag, Berlin

Healy MG, Barrett M, Lanigan GJ, Joao Serrenho A, Ibrahim TG, Thornton SF, Rolfe SA, Huang WE, Fenton O (2015) Optimising nitrate removal and evaluating pollution swapping trade-offs from laboratory denitrification bioreactors. Ecological Engineering 74: 290-301

Thornton SF, Baker KM, Bottrell SH, Rolfe SA, McNamee P, Forrest F, Duffield P, Wilson RD, Fairburn AW, Cieslak L (2014) Enhancedment of in situ biodegradation of organic compounds in groundwater by targeted pump and treat intervention. Applied Geochemistry 48: 28-40 doi: 10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.06.023

Dorca-Fornell C, Pajor R, Lehmeier C, Perez-Bueno M, Bauch M, Sloan J, Osborne CP, Rolfe SA, SturrockC , Mooney S, Fleming AJ (2013) Increased leaf mesophyll porosity following transient RBR silencing is revealed by microCT imaging and leads to a system-level physiological response to altered cell division pattern The Plant Journal - accepted manuscript online. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.12342

Pajor R, Fleming A, Osborne CP, Rolfe SA, Sturrock CK and Mooney SJ (2013) Seeing space: visualization and quantification of plant leaf structure using X-ray micro-computed Tomography. Journal of Experimental Botany Vol. 64, No. 2, 385–390

Rizoulis A, Elliott D, Rolfe SA, Thornton SF, Pickup R, Banwart SA (2013) Diversity of planktonic and attached bacterial communities in a phenol-contaminated aquifer. Microbial Ecology 66(1) 84-95

Wang Y, Chen Y, Zhou Q, Huang S, Ning K, Xu J, Malin RK, Rolfe SA, Huang WE (2012) A culture-independent approach to unravel uncultured bacteria and functional genes in a complex microbial community. PLOS One 7(10): e47530 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047530

Malinowski R, Smith JA, Fleming AJ, Scholes JD, Rolfe SA (2012) Gall formation in clubroot-infected Arabidopsis results from an increase in existing meristematic activities of the host but is not essential for the completion of the pathogen life cycle. The Plant Journal 71(2) 226-238

Rolfe SA and Scholes JD (2010) Chlorophyll fluorescence imaging of plant–pathogen interactions. Protoplasma 247(3) 163-175

Andrews JS, Rolfe SA, Huang WE, Scholes JD and Banwart SA (2010) Biofilm formation in environmental bacteria is influenced by different macromolecules depending on genus and species. Environmental Microbiology 12(9) 2496-2507

Elliott DR, Scholes JD, Thornton SF, Rizoulis A, Banwart SA, Rolfe SA. (2010) Dynamic changes in microbial community structure and function in phenol-degrading microcosms inoculated with cells from a contaminated aquifer. FEMS Microbial Ecology 71,247–259

Scholes JD and Rolfe SA (2009) Chlorophyll fluorescence imaging as tool for understanding the impact of fungal diseases on plant performance; a phenomics perspective. Functional Plant Biology 36(11) 880–892

Kocábeka,T Svobodab,Z Al-Zwi AM, Rolfe SA and Fellner M (2009) Boron-regulated hypocotyl elongation is affected in Arabidopsis mutants with defects in light signalling pathways.Environmental and Experimental Botany 67, 101-111

Ludwig-Muller J, Prinsen E, Rolfe SA, Scholes JD (2009) Metabolism and Plant Hormone Action During Clubroot Disease. Journal of Plant Growth Regulation J Plant Growth Regul 28:229–244

Janacek SH, Trenkamp S, Palmer B, Brown NJ, Parsley K, Stanley S, Astley HJ, Rolfe SA, Quick WP, Fernie AR and Hibberd JM (2009). Photosynthesis in cells around veins of the C3 plant Arabidopsis thaliana is important for both the shikimate pathway and leaf senescence as well as contributing to plant fitness. The Plant Journal 59, 329–343

Mark Geoghegan, Johanna S. Andrews, Catherine A. Biggs, Kevin E. Eboigbodin, David R. Elliott, STEPHEN ROLFE, Julie Scholes, Jesús J. Ojeda, Maria E. Romero-González, David J. Brown, Robert G. J. Edyvean, Linda Swanson, Ramune Rutkaite, Rasika Fernando, Yu Pen, Zhenyu Zhang and Steven A. Banwart (2008) The polymer physics and chemistry of microbial cell attachment and adhesion. Faraday Discussions, 139, ISSN 1359-6640.

Quilliam. R.S., Swarbrick, J., Scholes, J.D. and Rolfe S.A. Imaging photosynthesis in wounded leaves of Arabidopsis thaliana (2006) Journal of Experimental Botany 57, 55-59

Wright D.P., Scholes J.D., Read D.J. and ROLFE S.A.. Molecular responses of European and African maize cultivars to soil phosphorus and mycorrhizal infection. New Phytologist (2005) 167: 881–896

Walters R.G., Shephard, F., Rogers, J.J.M., Rolfe, S.A. and Horton, P.H. Identification of mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana defective in acclimation of photosynthesis to the light environment. Plant Physiology (2003) 131, 472–481

Baxter, C.J., Foyer, C.H., ROLFE, S.A. and Quick, W.P. Elevated sucrose-phosphate synthase activity in transgenic tobacco sustains photosynthesis in older leaves and alters development. Journal of Experimental Botany (2003) 54, 1813-1820

Bahrami A.R., Bastow, R., ROLFE S.A., Price C. and Gray J.E. A role for nuclear localised proteasomes in mediating auxin action. The Plant Journal (2002) 30, 691-698

ROLFE S.A. and Scholes J.D. Extended depth-of-focus imaging of chlorophyll fluorescence from intact leaves. Photosynthesis Research (2002) 72, 107-115

C.J. Baxter, C. H. Foyer, S. A. ROLFE and W. P. Quick. A comparison of the carbohydrate composition and kinetic properties of sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS) in transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) leaves expressing maize SPS protein and untransformed controls. Annals of Applied Biology (2001) 38, 47-55


The Physiology af Flowering Plants Opik and Rolfe. Cambridge Universtiy Press.

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