Professor Liam DolanBack to People

Subjects: Biology
Department: Plant Sciences
College appointment: Professorial Fellow
Officer: Garden Master
Phone: 01865 275147


Professor Dolan is from Dublin and graduated with a degree in Botany at University College Dublin. He carried out PhD research on plant developmental genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, under the supervision of Scott Poethig. He then spent 3 years as a post-doctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, Norwich (UK) before becoming and independent project leader. After 13 years running his own group in Norwich, Liam moved to Oxford as the Sherardian Professor of Botany in 2009. Liam was awarded the Presidents Medal of the Society of Experimental Biology in 2001 and was elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2009.


I lecture on the Organismal Biology course in the first year and to students in the Plant Development, and Evolution and Soils Roots and Food security courses in the third year of the BA in Biology. I provide tutorials in plant biology to first year students and in developmental biology to third year students.

Research Interests

The aim of Liam’s research is to define genetic mechanism that control the development of plants and determine how these mechanisms have changed since plants colonized the land 500 million years ago.  Liam’s lab discovered that the genes controlling the development of root systems are ancient and likely appeared very early in the evolution of land plants. While the function of the genes that control rooting system development is conserved, the way these genes regulate each other has changed dramatically since plants first appeared on land. Our group is trying to determine if these regulatory changes can explain the diversity of plant form that we see today. In addition to providing insight into evolutionary mechanisms, this knowledge can be used to develop crops with desirable traits. To this end we are developing technologies that can enhance nutrient uptake efficiency in crops, especially cereals. In this way we can use knowledge of evolutionary mechanism to help us increase crop yields and enhance the sustainability of agriculture in the next 50 years.


Selected Publications

  1. Pires ND, Keke Y, Breuninger H, Catarino B, Menand B, Dolan L 2013 Recruitment and remodeling of an ancient gene regulatory network during land plant evolution Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA In press
  2. Lenton TM, Crouch M, Johnson M Pires N, Dolan L 2012 First plants cooled the Ordovician Nature Geoscience 5, 86-89
  3. Jang G, Pires N, Keke Y, Menand B, Dolan L 2011 RSL genes are sufficient for rhizoid system development in early diverging land plants Development 138, 2273-2281
  4. Pernas-Ochoa M, Ryan E, Dolan L 2010 SCHIZORHIZA controls tissue system complexity in plants Current Biology 20, 818-823
  5. Keke Y, Bell E, Menand B, Dolan L 2010 A basic helix loop helix transcription factor controls cell growth and size in root hairs Nature Genetics 42, 264-267
  6. Takeda S, Gapper C, Kaya H, Bell E, Kuchitsu K, Dolan L 2008 Local positive feedback regulation determines cell shape in root hair cells Science 319, 1241-1243
  7. Ortega-Martinez O, Pernas-Ochoa M, Carol R, Dolan L 2007 Ethylene modulates stem cells division in the Arabidopsis thaliana root. Science 317, 505-510
  8. MenandB, Keke Y, JouannicS, HoffmannL, RyanE, LinsteadP, SchaeferDG, DolanL 2007 An ancient mechanism controls the development of cells with a rooting function in land plants Science 316, 1477-1480