Photo of Dr James Hartwell

Dr James Hartwell Ph.D., B.Sc. (Hons)

Senior Lecturer in Plant Metabolism Biochemistry, Cell and Systems Biology


Personal Statement

James Hartwell is a senior lecturer in plant metabolism. His research interests span the fields of plant molecular biology and biochemistry, and whole plant physiology. The focus of his research is understanding the molecular and biochemical basis for the circadian clock control of the metabolic adaptation of photosynthetic carbon dioxide fixation that is known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). He also has interests in the development of novel non-food CAM crops as biofuel feedstocks suited to seasonally dry lands, and the use of the latest plant synthetic biology approaches to re-engineer crop photosynthesis. In particular, his major current research activity focusses on the model CAM genus Kalanchoë and leverages multi-omics datasets ranging from whole genomes to metabolomes. The in depth view of CAM and its control by the circadian clock that is gained from these 'omics datasets then facilitates functional genomics approaches in Kalanchoë that are helping to build a ground-truthed molecular-genetic blueprint for CAM. Such comprehensive knowledge of the CAM system will in turn facilitate the forward engineering a drought inducible CAM system into crops in order to develop more water-use efficient varieties that can be leveraged for climate resilient agriculture to support humanity's needs.
The group also study the evolution of the CAM phenotype across the diverse genus Kalanchoë, which includes species that originate from the Madagascan rainforests and only use CAM in response to drought-stress, as well as highly succulent species from the Spiny Deserts of Southwest Madagascar. This aspect of the research is developing a molecular phylogeny of the genus accompanied by detailed physiological and biochemical analysis of the level of CAM performed by each species. Such knowledge will ultimately aid with the goal of achieving a systems-level understanding of CAM and the steps that occurred during evolution to adapt specific genes to establish an efficient and optimised CAM pathway.

Funded Fellowships

  • Dissecting the circadian clock which regulates Crassulacean acid metabolism using a molecular geneti (BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, 2000)