School of Biology

Staff Profile

Professor Anne Borland

Professor of Plant Physiology



I first joined the University as a research associate in 1987 and held a personal NERC fellowship from 1990-1994. I was appointed as Lecturer in Plant Biochemistry in 1998 and was awarded a personal readership in 2003. I hold a joint appointment with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US (since 2012) and was awarded a personal chair at Newcastle in 2013.

Roles and Responsibilities

Member School Postgraduate Research Committee

Member School Research Committee


BSc (Hons) Botany, University of Glasgow
PhD University College North Wales

Previous Positions

NERC Fellow 1990-1994
Visiting Lecturer, University Sunderland


Society of Experimental Biology
Association of Applied Biologists


Research Interests

My research falls within the general area of plant responses to environmental stress. A particular focus is the study of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), a specialised mode of photosynthesis that results in substantial (i.e. up to 5 fold) improvement in plant water-use efficiency compared to other modes of photosynthesis (i.e. C3 and C4).  Examples of CAM plants include pineapple, prickly pear cactus, some orchids and Agave (used for production of Tequila!)

CAM is a relatively widespread adaptation to drought stress which has evolved in up to 7% of higher plants and permits the uptake of CO2 at night. Since expression of the CAM pathway is readily modulated by the environment, CAM serves as a model system for establishing the functional significance of genes and enzymes that optimize physiological performance in arid, resource-limited habitats. Moreover, the day/night separation of carboxylation processes in the photosynthetic cells of CAM plants, poses fundamental questions in terms of metabolic control and circadian synchronization of metabolism.

The drivers of my research are to understand the metabolic basis of CAM in its various physiological manifestations and to use this information for exploiting the potential of naturally evolved and engineered CAM for sustainable productivity in a warmer and drier world. I am a project leader within a multi-institutional US Department of Energy (DOE) grant ($14 million) that seeks to engineer CAM into C3 crops as a means of enhancing plant water use efficiency (


Current CAM projects at Newcastle include:

Orchestration of starch degradation in CAM plants-implications for stomatal regulation

(2013-2017; BBSRC funded studentship, student: Erin Casey)


Exploiting the potential of Agave for sustainable production of bioenergy from marginal lands

(2010-2015; Funded by Kuwait Government, student Dalal al Baijan)


Other current research projects

2010-2013: Can bees meet their nutritional needs in the current UK landscape? (2010-2013; BBSRC,Co-I)

Effect of silver nanoparticles on non-plant pathogenic fungi in soil (Student- Hartati Oktarira  co-spervisor)

Nutritional importance of different mass flowering crops for pollinators in early spring (Student -Jon Carruthers, co-supervisor)

Causes of yield decline in coriander (Student Kate Fraser, co-supervisor)


Selected recent publications

Borland AM, Hartwell J, Weston DJ, Tschaplinski TJ, Tuskan GA, Yang XH, Cushman JC. (2014) Engineering crassulacean acid metabolism to improve water-use efficiency. Trends in Plant Science 19, 327-338.

Borland AM, Wullschleger SD, Weston DJ, Hartwell J, Tuskan GA, Yang X, Cushman JC. (2014) Climate-resilient agroforestry: physiological responses to climate change and engineering of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) as a mitigation strategy. Plant Cell and Environment DOI 10.1111/pce.12479. 

De Pauli HC, Borland AM,  Tuskan GA, Cushman J, Yang X. (2014) Synthetic biology as it relates to CAM photosynthesis: challenges and opportunities. Journal of Experimental Botany 65, 3381-3393.

Barrera-Zambrano VA, Lawson TA, Olmos E, Fernandez-Garcia N, Borland AM. (2014) Leaf anatomical traits which accommodate the facultative engagement of CAM in tropical trees of the genus Clusia. Journal of Experimental Botany 65, 3513-3524. 

Ceusters J, Borland AM, Taybi T, Frans M, Godts C, De Proft MP. (2014) Light quality modulates metabolic synchronization over the diel phases of crassulacean acid metabolism. Journal of Experimental Botany 65, 3705-3714. 

Borland AM, Yang X (2013) Informing the improvement and biodesign of crassulacean acid metabolism via system dynamics modelling. New Phytologist 200, DOI:10.1111/nph.12529

Haider, MS, Barnes JD,  Cushman JC,  Borland AM (2012). A CAM- and starch-deficient mutant of the facultative CAM species Mesembryanthemum crystallinum reconciles sink demands by repartitioning carbon during acclimation to salinity. Journal of Experimental Botany 63, 1985-1996

Borland AM, Barerra-Zambrano, VA, Ceusters J, Shorrock K. (2011). The photosynthetic plasticity of crassulacean acid metabolism: an evolutionary innovation for sustainable productivity in a changing world. Tansley Review - New Phytologist 191, 619-633

Ceusters J, Borland AM, Godts C, Londers E, Croonenborgs S, Van Goethem D, De Proft MP (2010). Crassulacean acid metabolism under severe light limitation: a matter of plasticity in the shadows? Journal of Experimental Botany 62, 283-291

Borland AM, Griffiths H, Hartwell J, Smith JAC (2009) Exploiting the potential of plants with crassulacean acid metabolism for bioenergy production on marginal lands. Journal of Experimental Botany, 60, 2879-2896

Cushman JC, Agarie S, Albion RL, Elliott S, Taybi T, Borland AM (2008) Isolation and characterisation of mutants of common ice plant deficient in Crassulacean acid metabolism. Plant Physiology 147, 228-238



Undergraduate Teaching

Stage 1:

Plant Biology 1 (BIO1003 Module leader)

Stage 3:

Plant Biology 3 (BIO3004 Module Leader)

Stage 3:  

Research projects (BIO3196)