Michael Ogden

Improving plant root performance by investigating the relationship between nutrient availability and cell wall biosynthesi

Research Summary:

Nitrogen (N) is a macronutrient essential for plant growth. N sensing, absorption, and transport occur at the root-soil interface. Over 100 megatons of costly synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are added to crops yearly to ensure yields; however, modern crops are highly inefficient in N acquisition. To improve N use efficiency and increase yields in a sustainable manner, we must understand how N availability affects plant biomass production. The major component of plant biomass is plant cell walls, which are dynamic extracellular structures dictating cell and tissue morphology. Root growth is drastically altered in N-deficient soils, and cell wall synthesis and composition are regulated in response to N availability; however, the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. I aim to identify these mechanisms in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana by using a unique forward genetic screen and integrated systems biology.

Project Supervisors:

Student Profile:

I was born and raised in Prince Edward Island, Canada. While attending the University of Prince Edward Island for my Bachelor of Science degree, I completed an Honours research project in Dr. Christian Lacroix’s lab, where I used scanning electron microscopy to study leaf primordia initiation patterns at the shoot apical meristem. I then moved to Montréal, Canada, where I completed my Master of Science at McGill University under the supervision of Dr. Tamara Western. My research focused on plant cell wall synthesis, using molecular genetics to investigate how pectin is targeted to the plasma membrane prior to secretion to the cell wall. I am now enrolled in the Melbourne-Potsdam PhD program, splitting my research time between the University of Melbourne and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology (Germany). The focus of my PhD research is to use various molecular biology approaches to understand how nitrogen regulates cell wall synthesis and root growth. I hope to apply this knowledge to establish new molecular means for tailoring crops to improve nitrogen use efficiency, ultimately resulting in reduced costs and lower environmental impact than conventional agricultural methods. When I’m not in the lab, my favourite pastime is exploring nature by hiking and camping.

GR Student Contact: ogdenm@student.unimelb.edu.au


Ogden, M.; Hoefgen, R.; Roessner, U.; Persson, S.; Khan, G. A. (2018) Feeding the Walls: How Does Nutrient Availability Regulate Cell Wall Composition? International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 19, 2691.

Ogden, M,; Lacroix, C. (2016). Comparative development of simple and compound leaves in the genus Cecropia. Botany. 95(2), 185-193.