Lara Donaldson

Group Leader, Plant Systems Biology
International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology
Wernher and Beit Building (South)
Anzio Road, Observatory 7925
Cape Town, South Africa
E-mail: [email protected] 
Tel: +27-21-650-4208


University of Cape Town, South Africa, PhD, 2009

Career History

Since 2021, Group leader, Plant Systems Biology, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Cape Town, South Africa
2019-2021, Principal Research Scientist, Roche Sequencing Solutions Cape Town, South Africa
2014-2019, National Research Foundation Research Career Advancement Fellow in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
2009-2014, Postdoctoral fellow in the Division of Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

Scientific Activity

My research interest lies in understanding how plants sense, signal, respond and adapt to their environment. I have studied plant hormones including plant natriuretic peptides; second messengers including Ca2+ and cyclic nucleotides (cGMP); proteins that generate second messenger signatures including adenylyl and guanylyl cyclases; and cyclic nucleotide binding proteins that decode second messenger signatures into unique responses; in the context of the plant response to both abiotic and biotic stresses.

Currently my Group is investigating how plants respond differently to the ion-dependent component of salinity stress as compared to the osmotic component of salinity stress. We have used a transcriptomics approach to identify genes that are specific to the response to salt stress and computational analysis to reveal that these genes also respond to auxin. We have shown that expression of an auxin biosynthesis gene is increased specifically in response to salt and that auxin levels are higher in plants grown under saline conditions compared to those grown under osmotic stress conditions. We hypothesize that this allows plants to maintain growth in saline environments. Currently the Group is investigating how plants regulate auxin biosynthesis in response to salt and the mechanism by which elevated auxin levels could allow plants to better tolerate salinity stress.

Teaching Activity

2014-2019, Lecturer, BSc 2nd-3rd year courses in Genetics and Biochemistry and BSc(Hons), Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
2009-2014, Lecturer, MSc in Synthetic Biology, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia

Selected publications

Cackett L, Cannistraci CV, Meier S, Ferrandi P, Pěnčík A, Gehring C, Novák O, Ingle RA and Donaldson L (2022) Salt-Specific Gene Expression Reveals Elevated Auxin Levels in Arabidopsis thaliana Plants Grown Under Saline Conditions. Front. Plant Sci. 13:804716. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2022.804716

Oyeniran, K.A., Hartnady, P., Claverie, S., Lefeuvre, P., Monjane, A.L., Lett, J-M, Donaldson, L.,Varsani, A. and Martin, D.P. (2021) How virulent are emerging maize-infecting mastreviruses? Archives of Virology 166(3):955-959

Wong, A., Donaldson L., Portes, M.T., Eppinger, J., Feijó, J. and Gehring, C. (2020) The Arabidopsis Diacylglycerol Kinase 4 is involved in nitric oxide-dependent pollen tube guidance and fertilization. Development (2020) 147, dev183715

Monjane, A.L., Dellicour, S., Hartnady, P., Oyeniran, K.A., Owor, E., Syed, R.A., Donaldson, L., Murray, S., Lefeuvre, P., Frousart, R., Roumagnac, P., Rybicki, E.P., Thompson, J.S., Shepherd, D.N., Harkins, G., Lemey, P., Suchard, M., Varsani, A. and Martin, D.P. (2020) Symptom evolution following the emergence of maize streak virus. eLife 2020;9:e51984

Al-Younis, I., Wong, A., Lemtiri-Chlieh, F., Schmӧckel, S., Tester, M., Gehring, C. and Donaldson, L. (2018) The Arabidopsis thaliana K+-uptake permease 5 (AtKUP5) contains a functional cytosolic adenylate cyclase essential for K+ transport. Frontiers in Plant Science 9: 1645

Donaldson, L.E., Meier, S.K. and Gehring, C.A. (2016) The Arabidopsis cyclic nucleotide interactome. Cell Communication and Signaling 14: 10

Wang, Y.H., Donaldson, L., Gehring, C. and Irving, H.R. (2011) Plant natriuretic peptides control of synthesis and systemic effects. Plant Signaling and Behaviour 6: 1606-1608

Ruzvidzo, O., Donaldson, L., Valentine, A. and Gehring, C. (2011) The Arabidopsis thaliana natriuretic peptide AtPNP-A is a systemic regulator of leaf dark respiration and signals via the phloem. Journal of Plant Physiology 168: 1710-1714

Briddon, R. W., Martin, D.P., Owen, D.P., Donaldson, L., Markam, P.G., Greber, R.S. and Varsani, A. (2010) A novel species of mastrevirus (family Geminiviridae) isolated from Digitaria didactyla grass from Australia. Archives of Virology 155: 1529-1534

Meier, S., Ruzvidzo, O., Morse, M., Donaldson, L., Kwezi, L. and Gehring, C. (2010) The Arabidopsis Wall associated kinase-like 10 gene encodes a functional guanylyl cyclase and is co-expressed with pathogen defense related genes. PLoS One 5: e8904

Harkins, G.W., Martin, D.P., Duffy, S., Monjane, A.L., Shepherd, D.N., Windram, O.P., Owor, B.E., Donaldson, L., van Antwerpen, T., Sayed, R.A., Flett, B., Ramusi, M., Rybicki, E.P., Peterschmitt, M. and Varsani, A. (2009) Dating the origins of the maize-adapted strain of maize streak virus, MSA. Journal of General Virology 90: 3066-3074

Varsani, A., Monjane, A.L., Donaldson, L., Oluwafemi, S., Zinga, I., Komba, E.K., Plakoutene, D., Mandakombo, N., Mboukoulida, S., Semballa, S., Briddon, R.W., Markham, P.G., Lett, J-M., Lefeuvre, P., Rybicki, E.P. and Martin, D.P. (2009) Comparative analysis or Pancium streak virus and Maize streak virus diversity, recombination patterns and phylogeography. Virology Journal 6: 194

Harkins, G.W., Delport, W., Duffy, S., Wood, N., Monjane, A.L., Owor, B.E., Donaldson, L., Saumtally, S., Triton, G., Briddon, R.W., Shepherd, D.N., Rybicki, E.P., Martin, D.P. and Varsani, A. (2009) Experimental evidence indicating that mastreviruses probably did not co-diverge with their hosts. Virology Journal 16: 104

van der Walt, E., Rybicki, E.P., Varsani, A., Polston, J.E., Billharz, R., Donaldson, L., Monjane, A.L. and Martin, D.P. (2009) Rapid host adaptation by extensive recombination. Journal of General Virology 90: 734-746

Meier, S.K., Madeo, L., Ederli, L., Donaldson, L., Pasqualini, S. and Gehring, C. (2009) Deciphering cGMP signatures and cGMP-dependent pathways in plant defence. Plant Signaling and Behaviour 4: 307-309

Meier, S.K., Bastian, R., Donaldson, L.E., Murray, S.L., Bajic, V.B. and Gehring, C.A. (2008) Co-expression and promoter content analyses assign a role in biotic and abiotic stress responses to plant natriuretic peptides. BMC Plant Biology 8: 24

Donaldson, L.E., Ludidi, N.N., Knight, M.R., Gehring, C. and Denby, K.J. (2004) Salt and osmotic stress cause rapid increases in Arabidopsis thaliana cGMP levels. FEBS Letters 569: 317-320