Professor Katie Field

  • Field KJ
  • Rimington WR
  • Bidartondo MI
  • Allinson KE
  • Beerling DJ
  • Cameron DD
  • Duckett JG
  • Leake JR
  • Pressel S

Functional analysis of liverworts in dual symbiosis with Glomeromycota and Mucoromycotina fungi under a simulated Palaeozoic CO2 declineISME J1061514–15262016

Most land plants form mutualistic associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi of the Glomeromycota, but recent studies have found that ancient plant lineages form mutualisms with Mucoromycotina fungi. Simultaneous associations with both fungal lineages have now been found in some plants, necessitating studies to understand the functional and evolutionary significance of these tripartite associations for the first time. We investigate the physiology and cytology of dual fungal symbioses in the early-diverging liverworts Allisonia and Neohodgsonia at modern and Palaeozoic-like elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations under which they are thought to have evolved. We found enhanced carbon cost to liverworts with simultaneous Mucoromycotina and Glomeromycota associations, greater nutrient gain compared with those symbiotic with only one fungal group in previous experiments and contrasting responses to atmospheric CO2 among liverwort-fungal symbioses. In liverwort-Mucoromycotina symbioses, there is increased P-for-C and N-for-C exchange efficiency at 440 p.p.m. compared with 1500 p.p.m. CO2. In liverwort-Glomeromycota symbioses, P-for-C exchange is lower at ambient CO2 compared with elevated CO2. No characteristic cytologies of dual symbiosis were identified. We provide evidence of a distinct physiological niche for plant symbioses with Mucoromycotina fungi, giving novel insight into why dual symbioses with Mucoromycotina and Glomeromycota fungi persist to the present day.

  • Field KJ
  • Pressel S
  • Duckett JG
  • Rimington WR
  • Bidartondo MI
Symbiotic options for the conquest of landTrends Ecol Evol308477–4862015

The domination of the landmasses of Earth by plants starting during the Ordovician Period drastically altered the development of the biosphere and the composition of the atmosphere, with far-reaching consequences for all life ever since. It is widely thought that symbiotic soil fungi facilitated the colonization of the terrestrial environment by plants. However, recent discoveries in molecular ecology, physiology, cytology, and paleontology have brought into question the hitherto-assumed identity and biology of the fungi engaged in symbiosis with the earliest-diverging lineages of extant land plants. Here, we reconsider the existing paradigm and show that the symbiotic options available to the first plants emerging onto the land were more varied than previously thought.

  • Lutz S
  • Anesio AM
  • Field K
  • Benning LG

Integrated ‘Omics’, targeted metabolite and single-cell analyses of arctic snow algae functionality and adaptabilityFrontiers in Microbiology6NOV2015

© 2015 Lutz, Anesio, Field and Benning.Snow algae are poly-extremophilic microalgae and important primary colonizers and producers on glaciers and snow fields. Depending on their pigmentation they cause green or red mass blooms during the melt season. This decreases surface albedo and thus further enhances snow and ice melting. Although the phenomenon of snow algal blooms has been known for a long time, large aspects of their physiology and ecology sill remain cryptic. This study provides the first in-depth and multi-omics investigation of two very striking adjacent green and red snow fields on a glacier in Svalbard. We have assessed the algal community composition of green and red snow including their associated microbiota, i.e., bacteria and archaea, their metabolic profiles (targeted and non-targeted metabolites) on the bulk and single-cell level, and assessed the feedbacks between the algae and their physico-chemical environment including liquid water content, pH, albedo, and nutrient availability. We demonstrate that green and red snow clearly vary in their physico-chemical environment, their microbial community composition and their metabolic profiles. For the algae this likely reflects both different stages of their life cycles and their adaptation strategies. Green snow represents a wet, carbon and nutrient rich environment and is dominated by the algae Microglena sp. with a metabolic profile that is characterized by key metabolites involved in growth and proliferation. In contrast, the dry and nutrient poor red snow habitat is colonized by various Chloromonas species with a high abundance of storage and reserve metabolites likely to face upcoming severe conditions. Combining a multitude of techniques we demonstrate the power of such complementary approaches in elucidating the function and ecology of extremophiles such as green and red snow algal blooms, which play crucial roles in glacial ecosystems.

  • Field KJ
Mycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functioningFunct EcolVirtual IssueMycorrhizal networks in ecosystem structure and functionhttp://www.functionalecology.org/view/0/virtualIssues/VI_MycorrhizalNetworks.html2014

The vast majority of land plants (> 80%) form mutualistic symbioses with soil-dwelling fungi known as mycorrhizas. Such symbioses typically involve the reciprocal exchange of fungal-acquired nutrients for plant-fixed carbohydrates (Smith and Read 2008). As mycorrhizal fungi tend to be non-specific in their choice of hosts, many plants can be linked through fungal hyphae in a common mycelial network (CMN). These networks can be enormous, with around 200m of mycorrhizal fungal hyphae present in a single gram of typical forest soil (Dickie, 2006). The flow of nutrients between plants and mycorrhiza and the resulting redistribution of nutrients throughout a community is an area of much recent research with important contributions having been made by publications in Functional Ecology. This Virtual Issue highlights those contributions covering three major themes in mycorrhizal research, namely; the movement of plant-fixed carbon, reciprocal exchange of nutrients, and the wider impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem function.

  • Field KJ
  • George R
  • Fearn B
  • Quick WP
  • Davey MP

Best of Both Worlds: Simultaneous High-Light and Shade-Tolerance Adaptations within Individual Leaves of the Living Stone Lithops aucampiaePLoS One810e756712013

“Living stones” (Lithops spp.) display some of the most extreme morphological and physiological adaptations in the plant kingdom to tolerate the xeric environments in which they grow. The physiological mechanisms that optimise the photosynthetic processes of Lithops spp. while minimising transpirational water loss in both above- and below-ground tissues remain unclear. Our experiments have shown unique simultaneous high-light and shade-tolerant adaptations within individual leaves of Lithops aucampiae. Leaf windows on the upper surfaces of the plant allow sunlight to penetrate to photosynthetic tissues within while sunlight-blocking flavonoid accumulation limits incoming solar radiation and aids screening of harmful UV radiation. Increased concentration of chlorophyll a and greater chlorophyll a∶b in above-ground regions of leaves enable maximum photosynthetic use of incoming light, while inverted conical epidermal cells, increased chlorophyll b, and reduced chlorophyll a∶b ensure maximum absorption and use of low light levels within the below-ground region of the leaf. High NPQ capacity affords physiological flexibility under variable natural light conditions. Our findings demonstrate unprecedented physiological flexibility in a xerophyte and further our understanding of plant responses and adaptations to extreme environments.

  • Brunetti C
  • George RM
  • Tattini M
  • Field KJ
  • Davey MP

Metabolomics in plant environmental physiologyJ Exp Bot64134011–40202013

Changes in plant metabolism are at the heart of plant developmental processes, underpinning many of the ways in which plants respond to the environment. As such, the comprehensive study of plant metabolism, or metabolomics, is highly valuable in identifying phenotypic effects of abiotic and biotic stresses on plants. When study is in reference to analysing samples that are relevant to environmental or ecologically based hypotheses, it is termed ‘environmental metabolomics’. The emergence of environmental metabolomics as one of the latest of the omics technologies has been one of the most critically important recent developments in plant physiology. Its applications broach the entire landscape of plant ecology, from the understanding of plant plasticity and adaptation through to community composition and even genetic modification in crops. The multitude of novel studies published utilizing metabolomics methods employ a variety of techniques, from the initial stages of tissue sampling, through to sample preservation, transportation, and analysis. This review introduces the concept and applications of plant environmental metabolomics as an ecologically important investigative tool. It examines the main techniques used in situ within field sites, with particular reference to sampling and processing, and those more appropriate for use in laboratory-based settings with emphasis on secondary metabolite analysis.

  • Field KJ
  • Cameron DD
  • Leake JR
  • Tille S
  • Bidartondo MI
  • Beerling DJ
Contrasting arbuscular mycorrhizal responses of vascular and non-vascular plants to a simulated Palaeozoic CO2 declineNature Communications32012

The arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal symbiosis is widely hypothesized to have promoted the evolution of land plants from rootless gametophytes to rooted sporophytes during the mid-Palaeozoic (480-360 Myr, ago), at a time coincident with a 90% fall in the atmospheric CO2 concentration ([CO2 ]a). Here we show using standardized dual isotopic tracers ( 14 C and 33 P) that AM symbiosis efficiency (defined as plant P gain per unit of C invested into fungi) of liverwort gametophytes declines, but increases in the sporophytes of vascular plants (ferns and angiosperms), at 440 p.p.m. compared with 1,500 p.p.m. [CO2 ]a. These contrasting responses are associated with larger AM hyphal networks, and structural advances in vascular plant water-conducting systems, promoting P transport that enhances AM efficiency at 440 p.p.m. [CO2 ] a. Our results suggest that non-vascular land plants not only faced intense competition for light, as vascular land floras grew taller in the Palaeozoic, but also markedly reduced efficiency and total capture of P as [CO2 ]a fell. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.

  • Field KJ
  • Lake JA

Environmental metabolomics links genotype to phenotype and predicts genotype abundance in wild plant populationsPhysiol Plant1424352–3602011

‘The Holy Grail’ of plant ecology is to uncover rules that associate species and traits with environmental constraints, community composition and subsequent ecosystem functioning. These aims have been crystallized in recent years within the context of global climate change and environmental pollution, increasing the urgency of the need to predict how vegetation will respond across spatial scales. We investigated whether genetic diversity is associated with the way in which phenotypic plasticity within plant populations is realized and whether this is related to genotype abundance. We used environmental metabolomics to demonstrate biochemical variation between co-occurring genotypes of Carex caryophyllea L. A novel combined metabolomic/functional trait analysis was used to test the functionality of this variation in governing plasticity to variation in edaphic conditions, with particular reference to metabolic pathways that play important roles in growth-related traits. We show that genetic diversity within a wild C. caryophyllea population relates to differences in metabolic composition and functional traits in response to soil nutrient variation, influencing genotype abundance within a community. Our findings highlight the vital role genetic diversity plays within a population in facilitating plant phenotypic plasticity and the potential usefulness of environmental metabolomics to future ecological studies. © Physiologia Plantarum 2011.

  • Lake JA
  • Field KJ
  • Davey MP
  • Beerling DJ
  • Lomax BH

Metabolomic and physiological responses reveal multi-phasic acclimation of Arabidopsis thaliana to chronic UV radiationPlant Cell Environ32101377–13892009

Biochemical changes in vivo and pathway interactions were investigated using integrated physiological and metabolic responses of Arabidopsis thaliana L. to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (280-400 nm) at 9.96 kJ m-2 d -1 over the entire life cycle from seed to seed (8 weeks). Columbia-0 (Col-0) and a UV-B sensitive accession (fah-1) showed significant (P < 0.001) reductions in leaf growth after 6 weeks. Col-0 recovered growth after 8 weeks, with recovery corresponding to a switch from production of phenylpropanoids to flavonoids. fah-1 failed to recover, indicating that sinapate production is an essential component of recovery. Epidermal features show that UV radiation caused significant (P < 0.001) increases in trichome density, which may act as a structural defence response. Stomatal indices showed a significant (P < 0.0001) reduction in Col-0 and a significant (P < 0.001) increase in fah-1. Epidermal cell density was significantly increased under UV radiation on the abaxial leaf surface, suggesting that that a fully functioning phenylpropanoid pathway is a requirement for cell expansion and leaf development. Despite wild-type acclimation, the costs of adaptation lead to reduced plant fitness by decreasing flower numbers and total seed biomass. A multi-phasic acclimation to UV radiation and the induction of specific metabolites link stress-induced biochemical responses to enhanced acclimation. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

  • Wilson PB
  • Estavillo GM
  • Field KJ
  • Pornsiriwong W
  • Carroll AJ
  • Howell KA
  • Woo NS
  • Lake JA
  • Smith SM
  • Harvey Millar A
  • Von Caemmerer S
  • Pogson BJ

The nucleotidase/phosphatase SAL1 is a negative regulator of drought tolerance in ArabidopsisPlant J582299–3172009

An Arabidopsis thaliana drought-tolerant mutant, altered expression of APX2 (alx8), has constitutively increased abscisic acid (ABA) content, increased expression of genes responsive to high light stress and is reported to be drought tolerant. We have identified alx8 as a mutation in SAL1, an enzyme that can dephosphorylate dinucleotide phosphates or inositol phosphates. Previously identified mutations in SAL1, including fiery (fry1-1), were reported as being more sensitive to drought imposed by detachment of rosettes. Here we demonstrate that alx8, fry1-1 and a T-DNA insertional knockout allele all have markedly increased resistance to drought when water is withheld from soil-grown intact plants. Microarray analysis revealed constitutively altered expression of more than 1800 genes in both alx8 and fry1-1. The up-regulated genes included some characterized stress response genes, but few are inducible by ABA. Metabolomic analysis revealed that both mutants exhibit a similar, dramatic reprogramming of metabolism, including increased levels of the polyamine putrescine implicated in stress tolerance, and the accumulation of a number of unknown, potential osmoprotectant carbohydrate derivatives. Under well-watered conditions, there was no substantial difference between alx8 and Col-0 in biomass at maturity; plant water use efficiency (WUE) as measured by carbon isotope discrimination; or stomatal index, morphology or aperture. Thus, SAL1 acts as a negative regulator of predominantly ABA-independent and also ABA-dependent stress response pathways, such that its inactivation results in altered osmoprotectants, higher leaf relative water content and maintenance of viable tissues during prolonged water stress. © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.