Professor Mike Burrell

Professor Mike Burrell

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0085



B.A. (Cantab) in Natural Sciences (Hons in Botany) (1970).
M.A. (Cantab) Natural Sciences, Ph.D. (Cantab) (1973)
I.C.I. Ltd., Post Doctoral Research Fellow at Department of Botany, University of Sheffield (1973-1976)
Higher Scientific Officer and then Senior Scientific Officer, Rothamsted Experimental Station, (1976-1987)
Principal Scientist at Advanced Technologies (Cambridge) Ltd. (1987-2002)
Visiting Professor of Plant Biology at Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex. (2001)
Visiting Professor of Plant Biochemistry at Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway College, University of London. (2002)

Key Research Interests

My main research interest is to understand the control of plant metabolism in non photosynthetic storage organs such as tubers and seeds, in particular the control of sucrose metabolism and synthesis of starch.

The sucrose content of crops is central to their harvestable quality. In some cases it is beneficial to have a high content in others such as in potato tubers it is detrimental.

Starch is one of the most important plant products used by man. It provides a large proportion of his calorific intake, it is important as a feedstock for farm animals, it has diverse uses in industry such as food processing, papermaking, paints. Therefore both quality (type and uniformity) and quantity are important.

We have produced many lines of transgenic plants for this purpose but work with these has demonstrated clearly that control of metabolism is complex and that many cells in an apparently homogenous tissue are doing different things. Therefore it is very important to be able to study metabolism at the cellular level. To achieve this we have been collaborating with Dr M.R. Clench at Sheffield Hallam University who has been developing a new technique called Imaging Matrix Associated Laser Desorption Ionisation mass spectrometry (I-MALDI). In my group we have been developing the methodology for application to plant tissues. The technique involves moving a laser across the tissue in a programmed way at micron intervals and for every position collecting the molecules that are ionised. One can therefore build a two dimensional map of metabolism. Examples of the data collected are presented below.

image of research

An example of an imaging result. The section of a wheat grain that was imaged is shown on the left. The flash frozen wheat grain was cryo-sectioned and then imaged in an Applied Biosystems MDS SCIEX Q-star Pulsar-I mass spectrometer. The distribution of arginine is shown in the middle and the distribution of sucrose is shown on the right. The darker the colour the more counts that were detected at each location.

image of research

Recent Publications Include

  1. M. M. Burrell, C. Earnshaw, and M. R. Clench. (2006) Imaging Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry – A technique to map plant metabolites within tissues at high spatial resolution. Journal of Experimental Botany doi: 10.1093/jxb/erl139.
  2. N. Halford, R. McKibbin, N. Muttucumaru, M. Paul, S. Powers, M. Burrell, S. Coates, P. Purcell, A. Tiessen, P. Geigenberger. (2006) Production of high starch, low glucose potatoes through over-expression of the metabolic regulator, SnRK1 Authors: Plant Biotechnology Journal 4: 409-418.
  3. M. M. Burrell. (2006) Improvements in Starch Quality in Plant Biotechnology: Current and Future Applications of Genetically Modified Crops. Edited by Nigel Halford. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  4. H.V. Davies, L. V. T Shepherd, M. M. Burrell, F. Carrari, E. Urbanczyk-Wochniak, A. Leisse, R.D. Hancock, M. Taylor, R. Viola, H. Ross, D. McRae, L. Willmitzer, A. R. Fernie,. (2005) Modulation of fructokinase activity of potato (Solanum tuberosum) results in substantial shifts in tuber metabolism Plant And Cell Physiology 46 (7): 1103-1115.
  5. I. J. Tetlow, E. J. Davies, K. A. Vardy, C. G. Bowsher, M. M. Burrell, and M. J. Emes. (2003) Subcellular localization of ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase in developing wheat endosperm and analysis of the properties of a plastidial isoform. Journal of Experimental Botany 54: 715-725.
  6. M. J. Emes, C. G. Bowsher, C. Hedley, M. M. Burrell, E. S. F. Scrase-Field, and I. J. Tetlow. (2003) Starch synthesis and carbon partitioning in developing endosperm. Journal of Experimental Botany 54: 569-575.
  7. M. Burrell. (2003) Starch – The need for improved quality or quantity. Journal of Experimental Botany 54: 451-456.
  8. D. Thorneycroft, F Hosein, M. Thangavelu, J. Clark, I. Vizir, M. M. Burrell and C. Ainsworth. (2003) Characterisation of a gene from chromosome 1B encoding the large subunit of ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase from wheat: Evidence for differential expression of Agp2 genes between leaves and developing endosperm. Plant Biotechnology 2: 259-270.
  9. K. A. Vardy, M. J. Emes and M. M. Burrell. (2002) Starch synthesis in potato tubers transformed with the wheat genes for ADPglucose pyrophosphorylase. Plant Functional Biology (previously Australian Journal of Plant Physiology) 29, 975-985.
  10. S L. Gardner, M. M. Burrell and S. C. Fry. (2002) Screening of Arabidopsis thaliana stems for variation in cell wall polysaccharides. Phytochemistry 60: 241-254.
  11. K. A. Blee, E. R. Wheatley, V. A. Bonham, G. P. Mitchell, D. Robertson, A. R. Slabas, M. M. Burrell, P. Wojtaszek, and G.P Bolwell. (2001) Proteomic analysis reveals a novel set of cell wall proteins in transformed tobacco cell culture which synthesises secondary cell walls as determined by biochemical and morphological parameters. Planta 212, 404-415.

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