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Natural Material Innovation

Sustainable Living


Prof Paul Dupree moved across Cambridge in 1996 from Peterhouse, where he was a Research Fellow. He was born in Devon, went to Warwick School and Fitzwilliam College (obtaining Firsts in all parts of the Tripos). After completing his PhD thesis in the Department of Plant Sciences in Cambridge, he moved in 1991 to Heidelberg as a Royal Society Research Fellow at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. There, he studied the mechanisms of movement of proteins within animal cells. He returned after three years to Cambridge to start a new project on the subcellular organisation of plants and was appointed as a University Lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry from January 1996. He was made Professor of Biochemistry in 2010.


Plant cells change their surface dramatically during growth and differentiation. The extracellular matrix of plants, the plant cell wall, can both create signals and moderate the response to neighbouring cells of the plant. The strength and plasticity of plant cells are also determined by the components of the cell wall.

Our research is focused on understanding the biosynthesis and function of polysaccharide components of the plant cell wall. The cell wall polysaccharides are synthesized by an amazing variety of enzymes in the Golgi apparatus. Despite these polysaccharides being some of the most abundant on earth, and having enormous nutritional, agricultural, and industrial importance, surprisingly little is known about the genes and enzymes that carry out the synthesis. Crucial players in polysaccharide synthesis are sugar nucleotide transporters and glycosyltransferases in the Golgi lumen.

We are studying the function of Golgi proteins involved in polymerization of sugars to produce the cell wall polysaccharides using functional genomic approaches. In order to identify candidate genes we use a combination of bioinformatic and proteomic approaches. By studying the composition of the extracellular matrix and the structural changes in specific polysaccharide components of mutant Arabidopsis plants, we are bit by bit deciphering the role of the individual proteins. Biochemical assays allow us to investigate the activities of individual proteins, complementing our understanding of gene function.

The major focus of our research is the biosynthesis of xylans in different plant species. However, a variety of other projects are ongoing in the lab, such as the structural analysis of arabinogalactans. Our research underpins development of renewable materials, such as fuels from plants.


Key publications: 

1. Bromley JR, Busse-Wicher M, Tryfona T, Mortimer JC, Zhang Z, Brown D, Dupree P. (2013) GUX1 and GUX2 glucuronyltransferases decorate distinct domains of glucuronoxylan with different substitution patterns. Plant J. 74(3):423–434.

2. Nikolovski N, Rubtsov D, Segura MP, Miles GP, Stevens TJ, Dunkley TP, Munro S, Lilley KS, Dupree P. (2012) Putative glycosyltransferases and other plant Golgi apparatus proteins are revealed by LOPIT proteomics. Plant Physiol. Oct;160(2):1037-51

3. Tryfona T, Liang HC, Kotake T, Tsumuraya Y, Stephens E, Dupree P. (2012) Structural characterisation of Arabidopsis leaf arabinogalactan polysaccharides. Plant Physiol. Oct;160(2):653-66.

4. Anders N, Wilkinson MD, Lovegrove A, Freeman J, Tryfona T, Pellny TK, Weimar T, Mortimer JC, Stott K, Baker JM, Defoin-Platel M, Shewry PR, Dupree P, Mitchell RAC. (2012) Glycosyl transferases in family 61 mediate arabinofuranosyl transfer onto xylan in grasses. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jan 17;109(3):989-93.

Professor of Biochemistry
Tutor for Graduate Students
Director of Studies in Natural Sciences (Biological)
Professor  Paul   Dupree
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