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Robert Ingle

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Rob Ingle

Associate Professor Robert A. Ingle
BA (Hons) Biological Science (Oxford 1998), PhD Plant Sciences (Oxford 2004)
Email: | Phone: +27 21 650 2408 | Fax: +27 21 650 186

PhD Research Positions in Plant Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry or Bioinformatics

Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2020: Circadian clock regulation of plant immunity
Applications are invited for an NRF grantholder-linked Postdoctoral Fellowship to use previously generated next-generation sequencing data to identify the transcription factors responsible for the temporal variation in susceptibility of Arabidopsis thaliana to bacterial and fungal pathogens. The fellow will also generate and characterise plants with altered expression levels of these candidate genes, and carry out metabolite profiling of plant hormone levels by mass spectrometry. More information...


Plants are unable to escape from unfavourable conditions and so have evolved an array of molecular mechanisms to cope with biotic and abiotic stresses. My group uses a variety of genetic approaches to study these responses, focusing on the following areas:

Circadian clock regulation of immunity in plants
The circadian clock synchronizes biological processes with the external environment, ensuring that they occur at optimal times of the day. While the role of the clock in the anticipation of abiotic stress is well known, we have demonstrated that the clock also allows plants to anticipate attack by both bacterial and fungal pathogens. We are now seeking to understand the mechanism by which clock regulation of immunity is achieved.

Students working in this area: Grant Mc Gowan, Amy Bruce, Rageema Joseph, Chenjerai Muchapirei & Shannon Valentine (all jointly supervised with resident MCB clock expert Laura Roden)

Next-generation sequencing analysis of non-model plants
Arabidopsis is a useful genetic workhorse but does not display some of the more extreme stress tolerance responses present in other species. The advent of NGS has facilitated the study of these plants, and I am engaged in two such projects. Firstly, we are using a comparative RNA-Seq approach to understand the molecular basis of nickel hyperaccumulation in the Southern African endemic Senecio coronatus, which is an unusual hyperaccumulator since some populations can accumulate Ni to >1% dry biomass, while adjacent populations cannot. In the second project, we are using RNA-seq and de novo genome assembly to understand the evolution of vegetative desiccation tolerance in Xerophyta resurrection plants, and its relationship to seed desiccation tolerance.

Students working in this area: Jess Proctor & Evan Millborrow (co-supervised with Nicci Illing)

Salinity stress tolerance in plants
I host an NRF early career fellow (Dr Lara Donaldson) and her students.

A non-plant project: plumage polymorphism in black sparrowhawks
I am a crazy birder and am now working on my first genetics project in birds. This involves the cloning and expression analysis of genes involved in melanogenesis in order to understand the genetic basis of plumage polymorphism observed in both adult and juvenile black sparrowhawks.

Students working in this area: Ed Rodseth (co-supervised by Arjun Amar)

Selected publications

Yuan C, Meng X, Li X, Illing N, Ingle RA, Wang J, Chen M (2017) PceRBase: a database of plant competing endogenous RNA. Nucleic Acids Research 45: D1009-1014.

Ingle RA, Stoker C, Stone W, Adams N, Smith R, Grant M, Carré I, Roden LC, & Denby KJ (2015) Jasmonate signalling drives time-of-day differences in susceptibility of Arabidopsis to the fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Plant Journal 84: 937-948.

Molojwane E, Adams N, Sweetlove LJ & Ingle RA (2015) Heterologous expression of mitochondria-targeted microbial nitrilase enzymes increases cyanide tolerance in Arabidopsis. Plant Biology 17: 922-926.

Carstens M, McCrindle TK, Adams N, Diener A, Guzha DT, Murray SL, Parker JE, Denby KJ & Ingle RA (2014) Increased resistance to biotrophic pathogens in the Arabidopsis constitutive induced resistance 1 mutant is EDS1 and PAD4-dependent and modulated by environmental temperature. PLoS ONE 9: e109853.

Lyall R, Ingle RA & Illing N (2014) The window of desiccation tolerance shown by early-stage germinating seedlings remains open in the resurrection plant, Xerophyta viscosa. PLoS ONE 9: e93093. 

Ingle RA & Roden LC (2014) Circadian regulation of plant immunity to pathogens. Methods in Molecular Biology 1158: 273-283. 

Moffat CS, Ingle RA, Wathugala DL, Saunders NJ, Knight H & Knight MR (2012) ERF5 and ERF6 play redundant roles as positive regulators of JA/Et-mediated defense against Botrytis cinerea in Arabidopsis. PLoS ONE 7: e35995.


Arjun Amar (University of Cape Town)
Ira Cooke (James Cook University)
Katherine Denby (University of York)
Antje Heese (University of Missouri)
Steven Hussey (University of Pretoria)
Nicola Illing (University of Cape Town)
Stuart Meier (Stellenbosch University)
Laura Roden (University of Cape Town)
Lee Sweetlove (University of Oxford)

Lab members
Ed Rodseth - PhD | Genetic basis of plumage polymorphism in the black sparrowhawk
Grant McGowan - MSc | Role of vesicle trafficking in circadian clock regulation of innate immunity in plants
Amy Bruce - MSc | Is it possible to reverse the phase of plant immunity in Arabidopsis to the necrotroph, Botrytis cinerea?