Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Staff Profile

Professor Anne Borland

Emerita Professor



I 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 held a joint appointment with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US (2012-2018) and was awarded a personal chair in Plant Physiology at Newcastle in 2013.


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

Previous Positions

  • NERC Fellow 1990-1994
  • Visiting Lecturer, University Sunderland

External Appointments

  • Joint faculty appointment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, TN, USA 
  • Gatsby Plant Science Mentor
  • Subject External Examiner for BSc Plant Biology and MSc Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University College Dublin (2016-2019)
  • External Examiner for BSc Biological Sciences, University of Essex, (2018-2021)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Board of Editors Global Change Biology: Bioenergy.

Area of Expertise

Photosynthetic carbon assimilation, crassulacean acid metabolism

Google scholar page


Research Interests

My research focusses on a specialised mode of photosynthesis, crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), which 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 permits the uptake of CO2 at night and has evolved in up to 7% of higher plants, primarily as an adaptation to water-limited habitats. The expression of CAM is readily modulated by the environment, and thus serves as a model system for establishing the functional significance of genes and enzymes that optimize physiological performance in arid, resource-limited habitats. The day/night separation of carboxylation processes in the photosynthetic cells of CAM plants, also poses fundamental questions in terms of metabolic control and circadian synchronization of metabolism.

The drivers of my research are to understand the molecular and metabolic basis of CAM in its various physiological manifestations and to use this information to exploit the potential of naturally evolved and engineered CAM for sustainable productivity in a warmer and drier world.

Selected recent publications

Ceusters N, Ceusters J, Hurtado-Castano N, Dever LV, Boxall SF, Kneřová, J, Waller JL, Rodick R, Van Den Ende W, Hartwell J, Borland AM. (2021) Phosphorolytic degradation of leaf starch via plastidic α-glucan phosphorylase leads to optimized plant growth and water use efficiency over the diel phases of Crassulacean acid metabolism. Journal of Experimental Botany 72, 4419-4434.            

Ceusters N, Borland AM, Ceusters J. (2021) How to resolve the enigma of diurnal malate remobilisation from the vacuole in plants with crassulacean acid metabolism? New Phytologist 229, 3116-3124.

Liu D, Hu R. Zhang J, Guo H-B, Cheng H, Li L, Borland AM, Qin H, Chen J-G, Muchero W, Tuskan GA, Yang X.(2021) Overexpression of an Agave Phosphoenolpyruvate Carboxylase Improves Plant Growth and Stress Tolerance. Cells 10 (3), 582.

Leverett A, Hurtado Castaño N, Ferguson K, Winter K, Borland AM. (2021) Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) supersedes the turgor loss point (TLP) as an important adaptation across a precipitation gradient, in the genus Clusia Functional Plant Biology 48, 703-716.

Abraham PE, Hurtado-Castano N, Cowan-Turner D, Barnes JD, Poudel S, Hettich R, Santelia D, Borland AM (2020) Peeling back the layers of crassulacean acid metabolism: functional differentiation between epidermis and mesophyll of Kalanchoë fedstchenkoi. Plant Journal 103, 869-888

Zhang J, Hu R, Sreedasyam A, Garcia TM, Lipzen A, Wang M, Yerramsetty P, Liu D, Ng V, Schmutz J, Cushman JC, Borland AM, Pasha A, Provart NJ, Chen J-G, Muchero W, Tuskan GA, Yang X. (2020) Light-responsive expression atlas reveals the effects of light quality and intensity in Kalanchoë fedtschenkoi, a plant with crassulacean acid metabolism. GigaScience, 9, art. no. giaa018

Heyduk K, Ray JR, Ayyampalayam S, Moledina N, Borland A, Harding S, Tsai C-J, Leebens Mack J (2019) Nocturnal expression of Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) genes predates the origin of CAM in the genus Yucca. Journal of Experimental Botany 70, 6597-6609

Yin H, Weston D, Ranjan P, Abraham P, Jawdy S, Tuskan G, Tschaplinski T, Wullschleger S, Hettich R, Guo H-B, Huo H, Borland A, Wachira J, Gross S, Wang Z, Visel A, Yang X (2018) Diel rewiring and positive selection of ancient plant proteins enabled evolution of CAM photosynthesis in Agave. BMC Genomics 19, 588

Yang X, Hu R, Yin H Borland AM, …. Cushman JC, Schmutz J, Tuskan GA (2017)The Kalanchoë genome provides insights into convergent evolution and building blocks of crassulacean acid metabolism. Nature Communications 8, 1899

Abraham PEYin HBorland, AMWeighill DLim SDDe Paoli HCEngle NJones PCAgh RWeston DJWullschleger SDTschaplinski TJacobson DCushman JCHettich RLTuskan GAYang X (2016) Transcript, protein and metabolite temporal dynamics in the CAM plant Agave. Nature Plants 2, 16178-16185.

Borland AM, Guo H-B, Yang X, Cushman JC (2016). Orchestration of carbohydrate processing for crassulacean acid metabolism. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 31: 118–124.

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. 



Undergraduate Teaching

Stage 3:

Global challenges for Plant Science Research (BIO3052 Module Leader)