Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research

Staff Profile

Professor Anne Borland

Professor of Plant Physiology and Research Group Head (Plant and Microbial Biology)



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

Theme leader for Plant and Microbial Biology research group


  • 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 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

  • Metabolic determinants of CAM expression within the genus Clusia

Project leaders: Alastair Leverett, Anne Borland, Achim Treumann (Newcastle University Protein and Proteome Analysis)

Project leaders: Natalia Hurtado, Anne Borland, Tahar Taybi, James Hartwell (UL)

  • The role of malate turnover in regulating physiological and biochemical aspects of CAM

Project leaders: Osita Nwokeocha, Anne Borland, Maxim Kapralov

  • Molecular evolution of starch degradation in CAM guard cells

Project leaders: Danny Cowan-Turner, Anne Borland, Maxim Kapralov, James Hartwell (Liverpool), Achim Treumann (NUPPA)

Selected recent publications

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. 

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



Undergraduate Teaching

Stage 1:

Plant Biology 1 (BIO1003 Module leader)

Stage 3:

Plant Biology 3 (BIO3004 Module Leader)

Stage 3:  

Research projects (BIO3196)