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Steven M Smith Recruited by the High-End Foreign Experts Program of Beijing




Steven M Smith

Professor Recruited by the High-end Foreign Experts Program of Beijing

Phone 86 10 6480 2976





Research Area: Plant genetics, metabolism and signalling



1976 B.Sc. Leicester University, UK

1977 M.A. Indiana University, USA

1981 Ph.D. Warwick University, UK


Employment History


1970-73 Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, UK

1980-82, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, Australia

1983, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK

1983-2004, University of Edinburgh, UK

2005-2014, University of Western Australia, Australia

2015, School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Australia

2015, Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences



Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher, 2016

Science and Engineering Research Council UK, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1980

Fellowship of the Institute of Biology, UK, 1998

Australian Research Council, Federation Fellowship 2004

Chinese Academy of Sciences, Senior International Scientists Visiting Professorship, 2013

Chinese Academy of Sciences, President’s International Fellowship, 2014

People’s Republic of China ’High-End Foreign Expert’ Professorship, 2015–17



Steven collaborates closely with Prof Jiayang Li in IGDB on strigolactone and karrikin signalling, shoot architecture, starch metabolism and grain quality, and insect resistance. He also runs a lab in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania, Australia, where he studies karrikin and strigolactone signalling, and their roles in interactions of plant roots with symbiotic bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi. Future students and researchers could work in Beijing, Tasmania or both.



The group studies the signalling mechanisms of strigolactone hormones which control plant architecture, responses to the environment, parasitism and symbioses. We also study closely related signalling compounds called karrikins - chemicals produced by wildfires.

The aim is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which these molecules function, and to use this information in plant breeding. Other research focuses on lipid metabolism. New discoveries have shown that it is possible to modify sterol metabolism in plants and so alter the ability of some insects to grow and reproduce on their host plant. Collaboration with researchers in the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences is aimed at developing new genes for insect resistance in plants.


Selected Publications


1.Zhou H, Wang L, Liu G, Meng X, Jing Y, Shu X, Kong X, Sun J, Yu H, Smith SM, Wu D and Li J (2016) Critical roles of soluble starch synthase SSIIIa and granule-bound starch synthase Waxy in synthesizing resistant starch in rice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A., 113: 12844–12849.
2.Brewer P, Yoneyama K, Filardo F, Meyers E, Scaffidi A, Frickey T, Akiyama K, Dun EA, Cremer JE, Kerr SC, Water MT, Flematti GR, Mason MG, Weiller GF, Nomura T, Smith SM, Yoneyama K and Beveridge CA (2016) LATERAL BRANCHING OXIDASAE acts in the final stages of strigolactone biosynthesis in Arabidopsis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science U.S.A., 113: 6301-6306.
3.Qian Q, Guo LB, Smith SM and Li J (2016) Breeding high-yield superior-quality hybrid super-rice by rational design. National Science Review, 3: 283-294.
4.Flematti GR, Scaffidi A, Waters MT, Smith SM. (2016) Stereospecificity in strigolactone biosynthesis and perception. Planta, 243, 1361–1373.

5. Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Moulin SLY, Sun YK, Flematti GR, Smith SM (2015) A Selaginella moellendorffii Ortholog of KARRIKIN INSENSITIVE2 Functions in Arabidopsis Development but Cannot Mediate Responses to Karrikins or Strigolactones. The Plant Cell, 27, 1925-19.

6. Wang L, Wang B, Jiang L, Liu X, Li X, Lu Z, Meng X, Wang Y, Smith SM, Li J. (2015) Strigolactone Signaling in Arabidopsis Regulates Shoot Development by Targeting D53-Like SMXL Repressor Proteins for Ubiquitination and Degradation. The Plant Cell, 27: 3128-3142.

7. Zhao LH, Zhou XE, Yi W, Wu Z, Liu Y, Kang Y, Hou L, de Waal PW, Li S, Jiang Y, Scaffidi A, Flematti GR, Smith SM, Lam VQ, Griffin PR, Wang Y, Li J, Melcher K, Xu HE. (2015) Destabilization of strigolactone receptor DWARF14 by binding of ligand and E3-ligase signaling effector DWARF3. Cell Res. 25: 1219-36.

8. Smith SM, Zeeman SC. (2015) Physiology and metabolism: Plant metabolism: globules to global, modules to models. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 25:v-viii. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2015.06.004.

9. Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Flematti G, Smith SM. (2015) Substrate-Induced Degradation of the α/β-Fold Hydrolase KARRIKIN INSENSITIVE2 Requires a Functional Catalytic Triad but Is Independent of MAX2. Mol Plant. 8: 814-7.

10. Zhang YX, van Dijk ADJ, Scaffidi A, Flematti GR, Hofmann M, Charnikhova T, Verstappen F, Hepworth J, van der Krol S, Leyser, O., Smith SM, Zwanenburg B, Al-Babili S, Ruyter-Spira C, & Bouwmeester HJ (2014) MAX1 homologs catalyze distinct steps in strigolactone biosynthesis in rice. Nature Chemical Biology, 10:1028-1033.

11. Smith, SM. and Li, JY (2014) Signaling and responses to strigolactones and karrikins. Current Opinion in Plant Biology, 21: 23-29.

12. Smith SM (2014) Q&A: What are strigolactones and why are they important to plants and soil microbes? BMC Biology 12, 19.

13. Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Sun YK, Flematti GR, Smith SM (2014) The karrikin response system of Arabidopsis. The Plant Journal, 79:623-631.

14. Bussell JD, Reichelt M, Wiszniewski AAG, Gershenzon J, Smith SM (2014) Peroxisomal ATP-Binding Cassette Transporter COMATOSE and the Multifunctional Protein ABNORMAL INFLORESCENCE MERISTEM Are Required for the Production of Benzoylated Metabolites in Arabidopsis Seeds. Plant Physiology 164, 48-54.

15.  Scaffidi A, Waters M, Sun YK, Skelton BW, Dixon KW, Ghisalberti EL, Flematti G, Smith S.M. (2014) Strigolactone hormones and their stereoisomers signal through two related receptor proteins to induce different physiological responses in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 165, 1221–1232.

16.   Smith SM (2013) Plant biology: Witchcraft and destruction. Nature 504, 384-385.

17.   Waters MT and Smith SM (2013) KAI2 and MAX2 mediate responses to karrikins and strigolactones independently of HY5 in Arabidopsis seedlings. Mol. Plant, 6, 63-75.

18.   Flematti GR, Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Merritt DJ, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW and Smith SM. (2013) Karrikin and Cyanohydrin Smoke Signals Provide Clues to New Endogenous Plant Signalling Compounds. Mol. Plant, 6, 29-37.

19.   Stanga JP,  Smith SM,  Briggs WR, Nelson DC (2013) SUPPRESSOR OF MAX2 1 (SMAX1) controls seed germination and seedling development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiol. 163, 318-330.

20.   Scaffidi A, Waters MT, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, Flematti GR, Smith SM. (2013) Carlactone-independent seedling morphogenesis in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 76, 1-9 .

21.   Bussell JD, Keech O, Fenske R, Smith SM. (2013) Requirement for the plastidial oxidative pentose phosphate pathway for nitrate assimilation in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 75, 578-591.

22.   Waters MT, Scaffidi A, Flematti GR, Smith SM (2013) The origins and mechanisms of karrikin signalling. Current Opinion Plant Biol., 16, 667-673.

23.   Nelson DC, Flematti GR, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW and Smith SM (2012) Regulation of Seed Germination and Seedling Growth by Chemical Signals from Burning Vegetation. Annu. Rev. Plant Biology, 63. 107-130.

24.   Waters MT, Nelson DC, Scaffidi A, Flematti GR, Sun Y, Dixon, KW and Smith SM (2012).  Members of the DWARF14 protein family discriminate between karrikin and strigolactone butenolides in Arabidopsis thaliana. Development, 139:1285-95.

25.   Waters MT, Brewer PB, Bussell JD, Smith SM, Beveridge CA. (2012) The Arabidopsis ortholog of rice DWARF27 acts upstream of MAX1 in control of plant development by strigolactones. Plant Physiol. 159, 1073-1085.

26.   Smith SM and Waters MT (2012) Strigolactones: Destruction-dependent perception? Curr. Biol., 22: R924-R927.

27.   Flematti GR, Merritt DJ, Piggott MJ, Trengove RD, Smith SM, Dixon KW, Ghisalberti EL. (2011) Burning vegetation produces cyanohydrins that liberate cyanide and stimulate seed germination. Nature Communications 2:360.

28.   Nelson DC, Scaffidi A, Dun EA, Waters MT, Flematti GR, Dixon KW, Beveridge CA, Ghisalberti EL, Smith SM (2011) F-box protein MAX2 has dual roles in karrikin and strigolactone signaling in Arabidopsis thaliana. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A. 108:8897-902.

29.   Nelson DC, Flematti GR, Riseborough JA, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW and Smith SM (2010) Karrikins enhance light responses during germination and seedling development in Arabidopsis thaliana Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 7095-7100.

30.   Pracharoenwattana I, Zhou W, Keech O, Francisco PB, Udomchalothorn T, Tschoep H, Stitt M, Gibon Y and Smith SM (2010) Arabidopsis has a cytosolic fumarase required for the massive allocation of photosynthate into fumaric acid and for rapid plant growth on high nitrogen. Plant J, 62: 785-95.

31.   Che P, Bussell JD, Zhou W, Estavillo G, Pogson BJ, Smith SM. (2010) Signaling from the endoplasmic reticulum activates brassinosteroid signaling and promotes acclimation to stress in Arabidopsis. Science Signaling, 3, ra69.

32.   Nelson DC, Riseborough JA, Flematti GR, Stevens J, Ghisalberti EL, Dixon KW, and Smith SM (2009) Karrikins discovered in smoke trigger Arabidopsis seed germination by a mechanism requiring gibberellic acid synthesis and light. Plant Physiol, 149: 863-73.

33.   Fulton DC, Stettler M, Mettler T, Vaughan CK, Li J, Franscisco P, Gil M, Reinhold H, Messerli G, Eicke S, Dorkin G, Halliday K, Smith AM, Smith SM, Zeeman SC. (2008) BETA-AMYLASE 4, a non-catalytic protein that regulates leaf starch breakdown upstream of three active β-amylases in Arabidopsis chloroplasts. Plant Cell, 20, 1040-1058.
34.   Pracharoenwattana, I. and Smith, S.M. (2008). When is a peroxisome not a peroxisome? Trends in Plant Sci. 13, 522-525. 

35.   Pracharoenwattana I, Cornah JE and Smith SM (2007) Arabidopsis peroxisomal malate dehydrogenase functions in beta-oxidation but not the glyoxylate cycle. Plant J, 50, 381.

36.   Baker A, Graham IA, Holdsworth M, Smith SM, Theodoulou FL. (2006) Chewing the fat: beta-oxidation in signalling and development. Trends Plant Sci. 11:124-32

37.   Smith AM, Smith SM, and Zeeman SC (2005). Starch degradation. Annu. Rev. Plant Biology 56: 73-98.

38.   Pracharoenwattana I, Cornah JE and Smith SM (2005) Peroxisomal citrate synthase catalyses an essential step in the respiration of fatty acids during germination of Arabidopsis seeds and is required to break dormancy. Plant Cell, 17, 2037-2048.