Dr Nada Šurbanovski

Group leader - crop epigenetics

Based at NIAB East Malling Nada's research interests focus on the intersection between genetics and environment and the function that small non-coding RNAs and epigenetic mechanisms play in the information flow within the plant and between the plant and its surroundings. Small RNAs and mechanisms of epigenetic regulation are best known for their role in genome defence against transposons, but their functions in plants are vastly diverse and steadily increasing.

MicroRNA are important master regulators in a wide range of developmental events including flowering and fruit development and the epigenome is highly dynamic during developmental changes. Epigenetic mechanisms fulfil important roles in plant reproduction and components of RNAi have recently been implicated in highly conserved chromosomal functions, such as chromosome segregation during mitosis and meiosis. Epigenetic regulation and RNAi are involved in response to environmental cues and abiotic stresses, pathogen defence and other biotic interactions. Because epigenetic modifications regulate mitotically or meiotically heritable gene expression without altering the genomic DNA sequences, they enable flexible and reversible gene expression regulation – therefore, understanding and harnessing these pathways of plant communication can enable us to intervene and modulate plant behaviour in real time and on existing crop varieties.

Nada's current work focuses on enabling the use of RNAi and DNA methylation for manipulating plant development and traits, particularly related to flowering, sexual reproduction and apomixis in Rosaceae and cereal crops. Her past work focused on investigating small RNAs of Fragaria vesca, identifying miRNA families and their targets as well as uncovering a link between miRNA, tRNA and LTR retrotransposon silencing. Whilst working for the industry she investigated the genetic base and epigenetic involvement in economically important complex traits in Fragaria and Rubus crops. She has also worked on pathogen resistance,  drought stress physiology and self-incompatibility in Rosaceae species.

Recent publications

Davik J, Aaby K, Buti M, Alsheikh M, Šurbanovski N, Martens S, Røen D, and Sargent DJ, (2020) Major-effect candidate genes identified in cultivated strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) for ellagic acid deoxyhexoside and pelargonidin-3-O-malonylglucoside biosynthesis, key polyphenolic compounds. Horticulture Research 7: 125.

Buti M, Moretto M, Barghini E, Mascagni F, Natali L, Brilli M, Lomsadze A, Sonego P, Giongo L, Alonge M, Velasco R, Varotto C, Šurbanovski N, Borodovsky M, Ward JA, Engelen K, Cavallini A, Cestaro A, Sargent, DJ (2018). The genome sequence and transcriptome of Potentilla micrantha and their comparison to Fragaria vesca (the woodland strawberry). GigaScience 7: 1-14.

Šurbanovski N, Brilli M, Moser M, and Si-Ammour A (2016). A highly specific microRNA-mediated mechanism silences LTR retrotransposons of strawberry. The Plant Journal 85: 70–82.

Sargent DJ, Yang Y, Šurbanovski N, Bianco L, Buti M, Velasco R, Giongo L and Davis TM (2016). HaploSNP affinities and linkage map positions illuminate subgenome composition in the octoploid, cultivated strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa). Plant Science 242:140-150.

Antanaviciute L, Šurbanovski N, Harrison N, McLeary KJ, Simpson DW, Wilson F, Sargent DJ & Harrison RJ (2015). Mapping QTL associated with Verticillium dahliae resistance in the cultivated strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa). Horticulture Research 2: 15009.