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The Australian National University

Profile of Carsten Kulheim

Teaching | Research | Research opportunities | Lab members | Publications | Grants

Dr Carsten Kulheim

Building 116,
Research School of Biology,
The Australian National University,
Acton, ACT 0200
T: 61257190


I graduated from the Umea University in Sweden with a major in Plant Molecular Biology in 2000. I completed my PhD in 2005 at Umea University, having worked with short term adaptation mechanisms in photosynthesis to changes in light environment. I moved on for a two-year Post Doc at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where I worked on plant-herbivore interactions using poplar as a model system. In 2008 I joined the ANU continuing in the field of plant-herbivore interactions with the focus on Australian Myrtaceae.


BIOL 3137: Molecular Tool for Ecology Lectures and Pracs on Next-generation sequencing
BIOL 3157: Bioinformatics und Functional Genomics Lectures and prac on Association genetics

Research interests

I want to understand the genetic basis of the phenotype differences between individual plants of the same species. Myrtaceae, such as Eucalypts and Tea Trees, vary widely in their chemical composition between individuals of the same species. By sequencing structural genes of secondary metabolism pathways from a large number of individuals and associating the polymorphisms to the phenotype, we can discover and quantify the inherited effects of each polymorphism.

In April 2010 a plant pathogen from South America arrived in Australia - Myrtle rust (Puccinia psidii). This plant pathogen has not co-evolved with the Australian flora and most Australian Myrtaceae species are susceptible. The potential consequences for the Australian ecosystem and Industries dependent on Myrtaceae are vast. I investigate genetic markers for rust resistance, which will allow breeders to incorporate resistance into their plant breeding stock.

Current projects

Genetics and evolution of variation in chemical defence against herbivores

Why are some trees defended against herbivores and others not? Even when they grow right next to each other? Is it because of variations in soils or are genetic factors more important?        Show more detail...

Rust resistance in Australian Myrtaceae

The exotic plant pathogen myrtle rust has recently arrived in Australia with devastating effects for the environment and dependent industries.        Show more detail...

Genetics to improve production of essential oils from Australian trees

We are using a range of different genetic approaches to understand how to improve, the profile, yield and biomass of medicinal tea tree, blue mallee and york mallee.        Show more detail...

Student research opportunities

Lab members

  • Jessie Au (PhD student)
  • Carlos Bustos-Segura (PhD student)
  • Bill Foley (Lab Leader)
  • Karen Ford (Postdoctoral Scientist)
  • Sarah Hsieh (PhD student)
  • David Kainer (PhD student)
  • Rodney Kavanagh (Visiting Fellow)
  • Carsten Kulheim (Postdoctoral Scientist)
  • Vanessa Lam (Divisional Visitor)
  • Amanda Padovan (School Visitor)
  • Eleanor Stalenberg (PhD student)
  • Alan Wade (Visiting Fellow)
  • Hamish Webb (PhD student)
  • Hannah Wigley (Divisional Visitor)
  • Hannah Windley (PhD student)
  • Baofa Yin (Visiting Fellow)
  • Kara Youngentob (Divisional Visitor)
  • Wufeng Zhou (Honours Student)

» Go to lab directory


Selected publications

1. Külheim C, Ågren J, Jansson S (2002) Rapid Regulation of light harvesting and Plant fitness in the field. Science 297: 91-93

2. Ganeteg U, Külheim C*, Andersson J, Jansson S (2004) Is each light harvesting complex protein important for plant fitness? Plant Physiology 134: 502-509
* Shared first author

3. Külheim C, Jansson S (2005) What leads to reduced fitness in non-photochemical quenching mutants during stress? Physiologia plantarum 125: 202-211

4. Frenkel M, Külheim C*, Jankanpaa HJ, Skogstrom O, Dall’Osto L, Agren J, Bassi R, Moritz T, Moen J, Jansson S (2009) Improper excess light energy dissipation in Arabidopsis results in a metabolomic reprogramming. BMC Plant Biology 9: 12
* Shared first author

5. Philippe RN, Ralph SG, Külheim C, Jancsik SI, Bohlmann J (2009) Poplar defense against insects: genome analysis, full-length cDNA cloning, and transcriptome and protein analysis of the poplar Kunitz-type protease inhibitor family. New Phytologist 184: 865-884

6. Külheim C, Yeoh SH, Maintz J, Foley WJ, Moran GF (2009) Comparative SNP diversity among four Eucalyptus species for genes from secondary metabolite biosynthetic pathways. BMC genomics 10: 452

7. Külheim C (2010) Applying second-generation sequencing to non-model species. Aust. Biochemist 41: 10-13

8. Külheim C, Yeoh SH, Wallis IR, Laffan S, Moran GF, Foley WJ (2011) The molecular basis of quantitative variation in foliar secondary metabolites in Eucalyptus globulus. New Phytologist 191(4): 1041-1053

9. C Külheim, H Webb, S-H Yeoh, IR Wallis, GF Moran, WJ Foley (2011) Using the Eucalyptus genome to understand the evolution of plant secondary metabolites in the Myrtaceae. BMC Proceedings 5: O11

10. H Webb, C Külheim, R Lanfear, J Hammil, WJ Foley (2011) The regulation of quantitative variation of foliar terpenes in medicinal tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia. BMC Proceedings 5: O20

11. Grattapaglia D, Vaillancourt RE, Shepherd M, Thumma BR, Foley WJ, Külheim C, Potts BM, Myburg AA (2012) Progress in Myrtaceae genetics and genomics: Eucalyptus as the pivotal genus. Tree genetics and genomes 8(3) 463-508

12. H Webb, R Lanfear, WJ Foley, C Külheim (2013) The yield of essential oils in Melaleuca alternifolia (Myrtaceae) is regulated through transcript abundance of genes in the MEP pathway. PLoS One 8(3): e60631

13. A Padovan, R Lanfear, A Keszei, WJ Foley, C Külheim (2013) Differences in gene expression within a striking phenotypic mosaic Eucalyptus tree that varies in susceptibility to herbivory. BMC Plant Biology 13: 29

14. B Moore, R. Andrew, C Külheim, WJ Foley (2014) Explaining intraspecific diversity in plant secondary metabolites in an ecological context. Tansley Review New Phytologist 201 (3): 733-750

15. A Padovan, A Keszei, C Külheim, WJ Foley (2014) The evolution of foliar terpene diversity in Myrtaceae. Phytochemistry reviews DOI: 10.1007/s11101-013-9331-3

All publications

Click here to see a full list of publications on the ISI website...

Recent grants

  • Post doctoral fellowship from the Swedish Research Council (2007)
  • PHA: Discovery of genetic markers for resistance to infection by Uredo rangelii in species of Myrtaceae (2012-2013)
  • RIRDC: Discovery of genetic resistance markers to Myrtle rust in Myrtaceae (2012-2014)

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