Brian Ellis

Professor Emeritus

Associated Departments

Professional Profile

  • Ph.D. (1969) University of British Columbia

Research Area

My research is continuously evolving, but one current focus is on the signal transduction networks controlled by mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) and MAPK kinases (MAPKKs) in plants.

I have always been fascinated by the diversity and adaptability that typify plants. In earlier years I concentrated on the chemical virtuosity of plants, sorting out the metabolic pathways and enzymes involved. This led to examination of the genes encoding those enzymes, and ultimately of the mechanisms by which those genes are controlled, i.e. signal transduction.

MAPKs and MAPKKs are ubiquitous members of the eukaryotic protein kinase super-family, and regulate many important processes in yeast and mammals. Genes encoding them appear to be particularly abundant within plant genomes, suggesting that they may have evolved to play an even wider range of roles in this phylum. The data currently available for members of these two gene families point to extensive involvement of MAPK/Ks in regulation of growth, development and defense. However, for many members there is still little functional information. Our goal is to biochemically define the signal networks in which plant MAPK modules participate, to place these within the context of the relevant upstream sensors and downstream targets, and thus to functionally link environmental inputs to developmental programming, fitness and survival.

My lab is also actively engaged in studies of plant cell wall biogenesis. Together with several other colleagues at UBC and University of Victoria, I have been awarded an NSERC CREATE post-graduate student training grant (from 2009-2015) for the project Working on Walls (WoW). WoW uses an interdisciplinary and multi-layered approach to examine all aspects of primary and secondary cell wall biology, from biosynthesis and delivery of wall constituent precursors to programmed cell death.

To learn more about the Ellis Lab, please visit ellislab.msl.ubc.ca.