School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Event items

The molecular basis of UV-B-mediated Brassica Napus tolerance to invertebrate pests

Agriculture Seminar Series - Dr Kirsty McInnes, Rothamsted Research

Date/Time: Wednesday 17 October 2018, 13:00 - 14:00

Venue: Agriculture Building, Room 3.05


Ultraviolet-B (UV-B; 280-315nm) is a small yet potent component of solar radiation that regulates an array of morphological and physiological responses in plants, including:

  • suppression of hypocotyl elongation
  • activation of rapid DNA damage repair mechanisms
  • the accumulation of UV-absorbing phenolic compounds in the epidermis

In addition, UV-B has also been found to regulate a selection of responses commonly associated with other abiotic and biotic stimuli, such as those initiated by invertebrate herbivory.

Multiple studies have shown that removal of UV-B from the growing environment of plants can increase their susceptibility to attack from invertebrate pests. Although the exact molecular mechanisms responsible for this observation remain somewhat elusive.

Improving our understanding

We therefore conducted a study to improve our understanding of the biological pathways commonly regulated by UV-B radiation and invertebrate herbivory, using the commercially important crop, oilseed rape (Brassica napus), and two of the crop’s major invertebrate pests, the:

  • diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella
  • greyfield slug (Deroceras reticulatum)

A transcriptomic and untargeted metabolomic approach identified several points of convergence between these signaling pathways in B. napus, with several B. napus genes selected for over-expression in Arabidopsis to further assess their putative roles in UV-B-mediated tolerance to pests.

In addition to the encoded products of these genes, the key regulatory components of the UV-B-signaling and wound-response pathways were also examined via the use of Arabidopsis mutant and over-expressing lines, to determine whether or not they are essential for the convergence of the two signaling pathways.

The results obtained from this study provide invaluable insight into the molecular basis of UV-B-mediated tolerance to invertebrate pests in B. napus.


Kirsty graduated with a doctorate in Plant Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow in 2016, and is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying plant-pest interactions.

Her previous experience of studying the genetic and metabolic profiles of oilseed rape following exposure to UV-B radiation and invertebrate pests (namely moths and slugs) have equipped her with a broad range of molecular research skills.

She is experienced in the interpretation of transcriptomic and untargeted metabolomics data as well as in setting up and conducting invertebrate bioassays.

Now working within the InnovateUK-funded Centre for Crop Health and Protection at Rothamsted Research, Kirsty is examining the molecular basis of pest resistance to control agents while also developing new diagnostic techniques that can be transferred out into the field.