Chan Group - Plant Organelle and Cellular Signalling

What do drought, high light, cold, and salt stresses, as well as pathogen infections and herbivore attacks have in common? They are all obviously harmful to the plant, but what's also fascinating is that they all induce a complex array of organelle and cellular signalling pathways within the plant cell, with unique and overlapping components that enable plants to respond to these perturbations. 

Our research vision is to unravel the intersection of molecular and biochemical mechanisms in plant cells for adaptation to challenging environmental conditions. The insights gained into these fundamental mechanisms feed into applied projects to engineer climate-resilient plants and novel solutions for sustainable food production. Our research can be broadly categorised into three themes:  

Theme 1 - The interface of organelle signalling and metabolism. We aim to understand how chloroplasts and mitochondria play dual functions in the plant cell as 1) metabolic hubs for photosynthesis and respiration respectively, and 2) environmental stress sensors for the cell by releasing a variety of distress signals upon perception of unfavourable conditions. This knowledge will help inform the engineering of climate-proof photosynthesis and respiration in our future crops. Current projects include: 

Theme 2 - Integration of cellular signalling pathways and processes. We aim to unravel how diverse signals and processes within the plant cell are coordinated for the plant to respond appropriately to environmental changes. This understanding is important to safeguard crop growth and production in increasingly unpredictable environments in the future. Current projects include:

Theme 3 - Novel tools for synergistic interplay of fundamental and applied research. We utilise high-throughput chemical biology to develop novel compounds that target individual proteins or processes within the plant cell. For example, we have now developed a suite of compounds that precisely “turn on” a chloroplast signalling pathway to study its role in plant cells (fundamental knowledge); and to activate this signalling cascade in plant leaves to enhance drought tolerance in crops (applied outcome). Current projects include:

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Learning the languages of the chloroplast: retrograde signaling and beyond

KX Chan, SY Phua, P Crisp, R McQuinn, BJ Pogson

Annual review of plant biology 67, 25-53


Balancing metabolites in drought: the sulfur assimilation conundrum

KX Chan, M Wirtz, SY Phua, GM Estavillo, BJ Pogson

Trends in Plant Science 18 (1), 18-29


Sensing and signaling of oxidative stress in chloroplasts by inactivation of the SAL1 phosphoadenosine phosphatase

KX Chan, PD Mabbitt, SY Phua, JW Mueller, N Nisar, T Gigolashvili, ...

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (31), E4567-E4576


Periodic root branching in Arabidopsis requires synthesis of an uncharacterized carotenoid derivative

JM Van Norman, J Zhang, CI Cazzonelli, BJ Pogson, PJ Harrison, ...

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (13), E1300-E1309


A chloroplast retrograde signal, 3’-phosphoadenosine 5’-phosphate, acts as a secondary messenger in abscisic acid signaling in stomatal closure and germination

W Pornsiriwong, GM Estavillo, KX Chan, EE Tee, D Ganguly, PA Crisp, ...

Elife 6, e23361


Evolution of chloroplast retrograde signaling facilitates green plant adaptation to land

C Zhao, Y Wang, KX Chan, DB Marchant, PJ Franks, D Randall, EE Tee, ...

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (11), 5015-5020


Reconsidering the nature and mode of action of metabolite retrograde signals from the chloroplast

GM Estavillo, KX Chan, SY Phua, BJ Pogson

Frontiers in plant science 3, 300


Chloroplast-to-nucleus communication: current knowledge, experimental strategies and relationship to drought stress signaling

KX Chan, PA Crisp, GM Estavillo, BJ Pogson

Plant signaling & behavior 5 (12), 1575-1582


The Transcription Factor MYB29 Is a Regulator of ALTERNATIVE OXIDASE1a

X Zhang, A Ivanova, K Vandepoele, J Radomiljac, J Van de Velde, ...

Plant Physiology 173 (3), 1824-1843


A GDSL esterase/lipase catalyzes the esterification of lutein in bread wheat

JL Watkins, M Li, RP McQuinn, KX Chan, HE McFarlane, M Ermakova, ...

The Plant Cell 31 (12), 3092-3112


Secondary sulfur metabolism in cellular signalling and oxidative stress responses

KX Chan, SY Phua, F Van Breusegem

Journal of Experimental Botany 70 (16), 4237-4250


3′-Phosphoadenosine 5′-phosphate accumulation delays the circadian system

S Litthauer, KX Chan, MA Jones

Plant Physiology 176 (4), 3120-3135


Chloroplast activity and 3′ phosphadenosine 5′ phosphate signaling regulate programmed cell death in Arabidopsis

Q Bruggeman, C Mazubert, F Prunier, R Lugan, KX Chan, SY Phua, ...

Plant Physiology 170 (3), 1745-1756


The Arabidopsis SAL1-PAP Pathway: A case study for integrating chloroplast retrograde, light and hormonal signaling in modulating plant growth and development?

SY Phua, D Yan, KX Chan, GM Estavillo, E Nambara, BJ Pogson

Frontiers in plant science 9, 1171


Reactive oxygen species and organellar signaling

SY Phua, B De Smet, C Remacle, KX Chan, F Van Breusegem

Journal of Experimental Botany 72 (16), 5807-5824


Development of strategies for genetic manipulation and fine‐tuning of a chloroplast retrograde signal 3′‐phosphoadenosine 5′‐phosphate

SY Phua, W Pornsiriwong, KX Chan, GM Estavillo, BJ Pogson

Plant direct 2 (1), e00031


Dissecting the Role of SAL1 in Metabolizing the Stress Signaling Molecule 3′-Phosphoadenosine 5′-Phosphate in Different Cell Compartments

N Ashykhmina, KX Chan, H Frerigmann, F Van Breusegem, S Kopriva, ...

Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences 8



Dr Kai Chan, Group Leader and ARC Decra Fellow awarded 2023 Westpac Research Fellowship

Story | Wednesday 22 March 2023
As the urgency for climate solutions increases globally, Westpac Scholars Trust supports successful scholars to research to solve some of Australia’s greatest environmental challenges.

Kai Chan wins ACT Young Tall Poppy science award

Story | Thursday 26 October 2017
Dr Kai Xun Chan has been honoured for his contributions to science in the ACT Tall Poppy Awards for 2017.

Dr Kai Chan named 2017 ACT Scientist of the Year

Story | Monday 14 August 2017
Dr Kai Chan from the ANU Research School of Biology has been named 2017 ACT Scientist of the Year by Chief Minister Andrew Barr MLA at a ceremony as part of National Science Week.

Canberra Protein Group Seminar Series

Event | Fri 6 May 2022
Please join us for the first Canberra Protein Group Meeting of 2022 this coming Friday. Where: Slayter Seminar Room, Robertson Building, RSB, ANU When: 3pm-4:30pm, 6th May 2022 We have two fantastic talks to kick us off.

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