John Browse is a plant biologist recognized for his research on the synthesis and function of plant membrane and storage lipids. John grew up in New Zealand and graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons.) (!974) and Ph.D. (1977) from the University of Auckland. His research on the biochemical pathways of lipid synthesis began in New Zealand and continued at Michigan State University with the isolation of fatty acid mutants of Arabidopsis. In 1988, he joined the faculty of the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University, where he is currently Regents’ Professor and Charlotte Martin Distinguished Professor in Agricultural Research.

Research Interests

Highly unsaturated lipid molecules constitute approximately 50% of the hydrophobic membrane barriers, which delineate the compartments of plant cells, and they are major components of the light harvesting membranes of chloroplasts. In addition, lipid oils are a major form of carbon storage in seeds and these vegetable oils have many commercial applications. The research program in the Browse laboratory encompasses a diverse set of projects that have at their base investigations of the biosynthesis and function of membrane and storage lipids in plants using Arabidopsis as a model. The projects include the isolation and characterization of genes that control desaturation and other modifications of fatty acids. These genes have been used to produce transgenic plants with altered membrane compositions or improved vegetable oils. Several research projects focus on the roles of membrane lipids in the cell biology and physiology of plants using a large number of mutants with alterations in the lipid composition of their membranes. Isolation of jasmonate-deficient and jasmonate-responsive mutants of Arabidopsis led to discoveries about the involvement of jasmonate in pollen development, insect defense and non-host resistance against fungal pathogens. These discoveries have wide implications for plant biology in areas ranging from hybrid breeding to crop protection.

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Primary Section

Section 25: Plant Biology

Secondary Section

Section 62: Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences