Nutrition and the origin of phenotype


This project will explore the role that nutrition plays in the development of phenotype using plant and fungi as model systems.


Professor Stephen Simpson, Professor Max Bennett, Professor Ian Caterson, Associate Professor Michael Charleston, Associate Professor Timothy Gill

Research Location

Charles Perkins Centre – the Judith and David Coffey Life Lab

Program Type



Phenotype is an emergent consequence of the interaction between processes at the level of gene expression and the nutritional and physical environment at the whole-organism and community level. This interaction is poorly understood at the mechanistic level and this project will aim to further develop ongoing work on theoretical models for this interaction that can be used to understand how organisms adapt to different nutritional environments. Plants and fungi offer convenient model systems because of their importance for soil and primary food production, and also because of their contrasting growth forms. Many plants undergo determinate growth meaning that they pass through prescribed developmental phases leading up to reproduction and senescence. The fungi by contrast undergo indeterminate growth and can persist indefinitely in time and spatial extent. This has significant implications for the way that the environmental variability interacts with developmental progression and partitioning of nutritional resources. This is turn affects the phenotype dynamics in these organisms, and therefore for the structure and functioning of communities.

Additional Information

The Life Lab creates a new kind of graduate and postgraduate training environment at the interface between life, social, economic and physical sciences. Its focus is to address the significant challenges we face from an unsustainable food system that degrades the environmental services it depends on, and creates significant societal health problems. A better understanding of the complexity of the environmet-food-health nexus is critical. It is fundamental to building a sustainable society, and one that is more robust to future uncertainties. Our unique approach will be a world-first in shifting research on these growing challenges from treating symptoms to prevention.Life Lab will challenge existing paradigms and university models to create a research training environment in which traditional disciplinary boundaries do not apply. Our ambitious vision is to create an ‘innovation hub' where researchers from disciplines spanning physical, life and social and economic sciences will interface with business, government and agency leaders. It will develop integrated approaches to the challenges that threaten societal wellbeing, and train the next generation of experts with the skills required to find solutions.

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Modelling, phenotype, nutrition, plants, fungi, Environment

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1691

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