I am a plant molecular biologist/biotechnologist with a particular interest in lipid signalling and biotechnology. Using Arabidopsis as a model system I investigate protein palmitoylation, also known as S-acylation, a post-translational lipid modification that is responsible for membrane targeting of proteins involved in plant growth and stress responses. In addition I am interested in the genetic modification of higher plants to produce omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA and DHA), components of fish oils that are known to have major health benefits, such as brain and eye development in infants and heart disease prevention.
1. Basic research carried out in the model plant Arabidopsis
The central focus of my research is investigating the function of signalling pathways linked to protein S-acylation in the regulation of growth, development and stress responses in plant. I have led research in this field and through the systematic characterisation of the 24 Arabidopsis thaliana Palmitoyl S-Acyl Transferases (AtPATs – enzymes that carry out this lipid modification) we have found that protein S-acylation is involved in all aspects of plant growth and development from seed germination/seedling establishment to seed production in mature plants. Significantly, S-acylation also plays important roles in abiotic and biotic stress responses and is therefore central to plant adaptation and survival. For example, we demonstrated AtPAT10 to be involved in cell division, cell expansion, fertility and salt stress (Qi et al, 2013, New Phytologist) and went on to show that AtPAT14 regulates leaf senescence via the salicylic acid (SA) pathway (Li et al, 2016, Plant Physiology). Currently, we are working on 2 further AtPATs and have discovered that one is the key regulator in lipid catabolism during early seedling growth (Li et al, unpublished) with the other mediating male and female fertility via its regulatory roles in meiosis (Li et al, unpublished).
2. Applied research in generation of dwarf pear rootstocks
In agriculture dwarfism is used to increase crop productivity and aid in crop management. For example, the breeding of dwarf rice and wheat were major successes for the so-called ‘green revolution’ during the 1960s providing major increases in yield hence saving millions of lives. These varieties are still widely cultivated today. Dwarfing is routinely used in the cultivation in fruit trees (such as apple and pear) and is achieved by grafting scions onto dwarf rootstocks. While this is very successful in apples it is not so in pear trees. In order to address this problem we have utilised the CRISPR-cas9 technology to edit relevant genes regulating plant height and successfully generated dwarfed pear plantlets (Xu et al., unpublished; Pang et al., unpublished).
3. Genetic engineering of crop plants to produce fish oils
I pioneered the work that transferred 3 genes originating from a microalga and a fungus for the biosynthesis of EPA in Arabidopsis. This proved for the first time that it was feasible to produce fish oils in higher plants (Qi et al, 2004, Nature Biotechnology). Following from this I established a research lab in Shandong Agricultural University and took forward research to engineer this valuable beneficial trait into agriculturally relevant oilseed crops such as cotton, maize and peanut. My ultimate aim is to optimize multiple gene transfer strategies to produce large quantities of fish oils in these crops in order to provide a sustainable alternative source for these healthy oils (see Sun et al., 2012; Sun et al., 2013; Yuan et al., 2014; Liu et al., 2015; Xia et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2017; Wang et sl., 2018).
University of Bath, United Kingdom, PhD
Shandong Agricultural University, China, MSc
Shandong Agricultural University, China, BSc
Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, 2019 - present
Research Fellow/Teaching Fellow, Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, 2004 - 2018
Postdoctoral Research Associate, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, 2000 - 2004
Wang L, Clarke LA, Eason RJ, Parker CC, Qi B, Scott RJ, Doughty J. 2017. PCP-B class pollen coat proteins are key regulators of the hydration checkpoint in Arabidopsis thaliana pollen-stigma interactions NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 213 :764-777 >DOI >Link
Wang C, Yang X, Ma H, Liu J, Chen J, Zhang J, Dong S, Qi B, Li X. 2017. Production of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20: 5n-3) in maize (Zea mays L.) through the alternative Delta 8 desaturation pathway mediated by particle bombardment ACTA PHYSIOLOGIAE PLANTARUM, 39 >DOI >Link
Xia F, Li X, Li X, Zheng D, Sun Q, Liu J, Li Y, Hua J, Qi B. 2016. Elevation of the Yields of Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids via Minimal Codon Optimization of Two Key Biosynthetic Enzymes PLOS ONE, 11 >DOI >Link
Yuan X, Li Y, Liu S, Xia F, Li X, Qi B. 2014. Accumulation of eicosapolyenoic acids enhances sensitivity to abscisic acid and mitigates the effects of drought in transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BOTANY, 65 :1637-1649 >DOI >Link
Ma HZ, Zhu WW, Wang QB, Wang GL, Li XZ, Qi BX. 2014. Regeneration capacity and some affecting factors of different parts of young seedlings of maize (Zea mays L.) Acta Agronomica Sinica(China), 40 :313-319 >DOI
Liu J, Ma YB, Sun QX, Wu X, Li XY, Sun MH, Li YE, Li XZ, Qi BX. 2014. Production of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in cotton Acta Agronomica Sinica(China), 40 :86-92 >DOI
Sun Q, Liu J, Li Y, Zhang Q, Shan S, Li X, Qi B. 2013. Creation and validation of a widely applicable multiple gene transfer vector system for stable transformation in plant Plant Molecular Biology, 83 :391-404 >DOI
Qi B, Doughty J, Hooley R. 2013. A Golgi and tonoplast localized S-acyl transferase is involved in cell expansion, cell division, vascular patterning and fertility in Arabidopsis NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 200 :443-454 >DOI >Link
Liu J, Jiang S, Cao D, Peng FZ. 2013. A digital current control of quasi-Z-source inverter with battery IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics, 9 :928-937 >DOI
Sun Q, Liu J, Zhang Q, Qing X, Dobson G, Li X, Qi B. 2013. Characterization of three novel desaturases involved in the delta-6 desaturation pathways for polyunsaturated fatty acid biosynthesis from Phytophthora infestans APPLIED MICROBIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY, 97 :7689-7697 >DOI >Link
Sayanova O, Haslam R, Qi B, Lazarus CM, Napier JA. 2006. The alternative pathway C20 Δ8-desaturase from the non-photosynthetic organism Acanthamoeba castellanii is an atypical cytochrome b5-fusion desaturase FEBS Letters, 580 :1946-1952 >DOI
Lignot JH, Helmstetter C, Secor SM. 2005. Postprandial morphological response of the intestinal epithelium of the Burmese python (Python molurus) Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 141 :280-291 >DOI
Fraser TCM, Qi B, Elhussein S, Chatrattanakunchai S, Stobart AK, Lazarus CM. 2004. Expression of the isochrysis C18-Δ9 polyunsaturated fatty acid specific elongase component alters arabidopsis glycerolipid profiles Plant Physiology, 135 :859-866 >DOI
Qi BX, Fraser T, Mugford S, Dobson G, Sayanova O, Butler J, Napier JA, Stobart AK, Lazarus CM. 2004. Production of very long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in plants NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY, 22 :739-745 >DOI >Link
Qi B, Fraser TCM, Bleakley CL, Shaw EM, Stobart AK, Lazarus CM. 2003. The variant 'his-box' of the C18-Δ9-PUFA-specific elongase IgASE1 from Isochrysis galbana is essential for optimum enzyme activity FEBS Letters, 547 :137-139 >DOI
Qi B, Beaudoin F, Fraser T, Stobart AK, Napier JA, Lazarus CM. 2002. Identification of a cDNA encoding a novel C18-Δ9 polyunsaturated fatty acid-specific elongating activity from the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-producing microalga, Isochrysis galbana FEBS Letters, 510 :159-165 >DOI
Qi BX, Moore KG, Orchard J. 2000. A comparison of two methods and the effect of cooking time on the extractability of pectin from the cell walls of cooking banana LEBENSMITTEL-WISSENSCHAFT UND-TECHNOLOGIE-FOOD SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, 33 :369-373 >DOI >Link
Napier JA, Sayanova O, Qi BX, Lazarus CM. 2004. Progress toward the production of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in transgenic plants LIPIDS, 6th Congress of the International-Society-for-the-Study-of-Fatty-Acids-and-Lipids (ISSFAL) 39 :1067-1075 >DOI >Link