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Ruairidh J. H. Sawers (CV)

Assistant Professor (CINVESTAV 3B)

Ruairidh J. H. Sawers (CV)


Assistant Professor (CINVESTAV 3B)


Maize Genetics and Genomics

SNI Level



rsawers [a] langebio cinvestav mx


Office: 52 (462) 166-3012


I was born and educated in Great Britain. After attending secondary school in Birmingham, I moved to Oxford to study biology, first for a Bachelors, and then for Doctoral degree. I did my PhD work in the group of Dr. Jane Langdale, characterizing maize mutants defective in the establishment of C4 photosynthesis. I continued to work with C4 development in my first post-doctoral position in the lab of Dr. Thomas Brutnell, at the Boyce Thompson Institute, in New York State, using microarray technology to characterize the different cell types of the maize leaf. During this time, I also cloned the Elm1 gene from the first known maize phytochrome mutant, and characterized other maize mutants blocked in the tetrapyrrole biosynthesis pathway. Following my time in the USA, I moved to Switzerland and the lab of Dr. Uta Paszkowski where I studied maize mutants disrupted in formation of the mycorrhizal symbiosis, and began my interest in the genetic basis of plant nutrition that forms the focus of my current work.


Ten thousand years ago the first farmers began the process of plant domestication. They took wild plants that had been molded by millennia of evolution, and presented them with a new set of environmental challenges. Plants were carried far and wide, and shaped by the selective demands of agriculture. This process continues to this day; we seek to change our agricultural practices to be more sustainable, and aim to develop crop varieties better suited to stressful conditions. In the lab, we study the continually changing relationship between plant and environment. Working with maize, we focus on the impact of changing phosphate availability on plant performance. We ask how this relationship differs among varieties, we characterize the molecular and genetic differences that underlie this variation, and we ask how this relationship was changed by the domestication of maize from wild populations of Mexican teosinte.


1993-1996 Bachelor of Arts –Biological Sciences, Oriel College, Oxford University, UK.
1996-2001 Doctor of Philosophy –Biological Sciences, Wadham College, Oxford University, UK.
2001-2006 Postdoctoral associate, Boyce Thompson Institute, Cornell University, USA.
2006-2010 Postdoctoral associate, Universities of Geneva/Lausanne, Switzerland.


1997, 1998 Keeley Senior Scholar, Wadham College, Oxford University, UK.
2001 Boyce Thompson Institute innovation grant.



14) The maize (Zea mays ssp. mays var. B73) genome encodes 33 members of the purple acid phosphatase family. González-Muñoz E, Avendaño-Vázquez AO, Montes RA, de Folter S, Andrés-Hernández L, Abreu-Goodger C, Sawers RJ.
Front Plant Sci. 2015 May 19;6:341. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2015.00341.

13) Transcriptome diversity among rice root types during asymbiosis and interaction with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Gutjahr C, Sawers RJ, Marti G, Andrés-Hernández L, Yang SY, Casieri L, Angliker H, Oakeley EJ, Wolfender JL, Abreu-Goodger C, Paszkowski U.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 26;112(21):6754-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1504142112.

12) Characterizing variation in mycorrhiza effect among diverse plant varieties. Sawers RJ, Gebreselassie MN, Janos DP, Paszkowski U.
Theor Appl Genet. 2010 Mar;120(5):1029-39. doi: 10.1007/s00122-009-1231-y.

11) Structural determinants of antimicrobial and antiplasmodial activity and selectivity in histidine-rich amphipathic cationic peptides. Mason AJ, Moussaoui W, Abdelrahman T, Boukhari A, Bertani P, Marquette A, Shooshtarizaheh P, Moulay G, Boehm N, Guerold B, Sawers RJ, Kichler A, Metz-Boutigue MH, Candolfi E, Prévost G, Bechinger B.
J Biol Chem. 2009 Jan 2;284(1):119-33. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M806201200.

10) A multi-treatment experimental system to examine photosynthetic differentiation in the maize leaf. Sawers RJ, Liu P, Anufrikova K, Hwang JT, Brutnell TP.
BMC Genomics. 2007 Jan 9;8:12.

9) In planta transient expression as a system for genetic and biochemical analyses of chlorophyll biosynthesis. Sawers RJ, Farmer PR, Moffett P, Brutnell TP.
Plant Methods. 2006 Sep 5;2:15.

8) Sawers RJH, Viney J, Farmer PR, Bussey RR, Olsefski G, Anufrikova K, Moffet P, Hunter NC and Brutnell TP. The Oil yellow1 gene of maize encodes subunit I of magnesium chelatase.
Plant Mol. Biol. 60, 95-106 (2006).

7) Light-regulated overexpression of an Arabidopsis phytochrome A gene in rice alters plant architecture and increases grain yield. Garg AK, Sawers RJ, Wang H, Kim JK, Walker JM, Brutnell TP, Parthasarathy MV, Vierstra RD, Wu RJ.
Planta. 2006 Mar;223(4):627-36.

6) Distribution of Activator (Ac) throughout the maize genome for use in regional mutagenesis. Kolkman JM, Conrad LJ, Farmer PR, Hardeman K, Ahern KR, Lewis PE, Sawers RJ, Lebejko S, Chomet P, Brutnell TP.
Genetics. 2005 Feb;169(2):981-95.

5) The Elm1 (ZmHy2) gene of maize encodes a phytochromobilin synthase. Sawers RJ, Linley PJ, Gutierrez-Marcos JF, Delli-Bovi T, Farmer PR, Kohchi T, Terry MJ, Brutnell TP.
Plant Physiol. 2004 Sep;136(1):2771-81.

4) Elongated mesocotyl1, a phytochrome-deficient mutant of maize. Sawers RJ, Linley PJ, Farmer PR, Hanley NP, Costich DE, Terry MJ, Brutnell TP.
Plant Physiol. 2002 Sep;130(1):155-63.

3) Plastids undifferentiated, a nuclear mutation that disrupts plastid differentiation in Zea mays L. Roth R, Sawers RJ, Munn HL, Langdale JA.
Planta. 2001 Aug;213(4):647-58.

2) Maize high chlorophyll fluorescent 60 mutation is caused by an Ac disruption of the gene encoding the chloroplast ribosomal small subunit protein 17. Schultes NP, Sawers RJ, Brutnell TP, Krueger RW.
Plant J. 2000 Feb;21(4):317-27.

1) BUNDLE SHEATH DEFECTIVE2, a novel protein required for post-translational regulation of the rbcL gene of maize. Brutnell TP, Sawers RJ, Mant A, Langdale JA.
Plant Cell. 1999 May;11(5):849-64.


7) Origins of maize: a further paradox resolved. Sawers RJ, Sanchez Leon NL.
Front Genet. 2011 Aug 23;2:53. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2011.00053.

6) Phosphate deprivation in maize: genetics and genomics. Calderón-Vázquez C, Sawers RJ, Herrera-Estrella L.
Plant Physiol. 2011 Jul;156(3):1067-77. doi: 10.1104/pp.111.174987.

5) Sawers RJH. Breeding for reaction.
In Plant Breeding. Nova, NY. 2009.

4) Sawers RJH, Yang, S-Y, Gutjahr C and Paszkowski U. The molecular components of nutrient exchange in arbuscular mycorrhizal interactions.
In Mycorrhizae: Sustainable agriculture and forestry. Siddiqui, ZA, Sayeed, M and Futai, K (eds). pp. 37-59. Springer Science. (2008).

3) Cereal mycorrhiza: an ancient symbiosis in modern agriculture. Sawers RJ, Gutjahr C, Paszkowski U.
Trends Plant Sci. 2008 Feb;13(2):93-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2007.11.006.

2) Sawers RJH. Diversity of phytochrome chromophores.
Web essay accompanying Plant Physiology. Taiz and Zeiger (eds.) (2006)

1) Cereal phytochromes: targets of selection, targets for manipulation? Sawers RJ, Sheehan MJ, Brutnell TP.
Trends Plant Sci. 2005 Mar;10(3):138-43.

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