Dr Martin Kieffer


I joined the University of Leeds in 1997 as a Research Fellow and progressed to a permanent Research Associate position in 2008.

Following an MSc in Plant Biotechnology obtained from E.N.I.T.H.P and the University of Angers (France) in 1991, I completed my PhD at the University of Plymouth in May 1996. In the course of my PhD I characterised the different patterns of activity of the shoot apical meristem that defines curd development in cauliflower, 'romanesco' and broccoli spears and developed associated mathematical models of curd development (Kieffer et al. 1998).

Upon joining the University of Leeds, Centre for Plant Sciences and the team of Prof. Brendan Davies in 1997 I completed two EU funded projects and one BBSRC research grant. I investigated the molecular mechanisms controlling flower and leaf development and shoot meristem stem cell maintenance. These functional genomics projects focused on the characterisation of key regulatory genes from three Transcription Factor families: MADS-box genes, TCP and WOX genes. Key contributions were made in:

(i) The identification and analysis of the full complement of the A.thaliana MADS-box genes and the production of their first protein-protein interaction map (Parenicova et al. 2003; De Folter et al. 2005);

(ii) The Evolutionary and functional analysis of the WUS gene, a central regulator of stem cell maintenance (Kieffer et al. 2006);

(iii) The role of class I TCP genes in leaf and stem development (Kieffer et al. 2011).

In 2008 I joined the nascent group of Dr Stefan Kepinski and started investigating the role of the phytohormone auxin in plant development and its regulatory role in the control of root system architecture. Through four successive BBSRC funded projects I investigated:

(i) The cellular mechanism of auxin perception (Wang et al. 2015; Several papers in revision) .

(ii) The auxin regulation of root epidermis development and root hair elongation (Kieffer et al., submitted)

(iii) I contributed to the identification of the auxin based mechanism controlling root and shoot growth angle (Roychoudhry et al. 2013).

(iv) More recently I started investigating the interactions between root system architecture, symbiotic fungi and other rhizosphere traits.

My current focus is on applying the acquired knowledge on the control of the root architecture to improve maize nutrient/water acquisition and drought tolerance in the context of East Africa.

Research interests

My main research interest is focused on the genetic mechanisms that control plant development and underpin both shoot and root architecture. Current work investigates the role of the plant hormone auxin in the control of root system architecture in Arabidopsis and Maize. A special focus is on the interactions between root architecture, mycorrhizal fungi and other rhizosphere traits. The long term objective is to improve crop root architecture to enhance their soil water and nutrient foraging abilities, hence promoting sustainable agriculture.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD (1996) University of Plymouth.
  • MSc Technologies du végétales (1991) Université des sciences d'Angers - E.N.I.T.H.P
  • Maîtrise de biologie appliquée aux productions végétales (1990) Université de lille-Flandres-Artois
  • Licence de Biologie (1989) Université des sciences et techniques de Lille-Flandres-Artois
  • DEUG B: Sciences de la nature et de la vie (1988) Université Catholique de Lille

Student education

I am a guest lecturer in developmental biology for the University of Leeds (level 3 Biology students). I have also given guest lectures for the University of Plymouth and the University of Exeter (level 1 Biology students and MSc students). I contribute to the supervision and assessment of first year students in the module of plant physiology (‘How plants work’). I also currently deliver a two session confocal microscopy practical for the bio-imaging masters module. In connection with my research activities, I have in the last few years contributed to the supervision of 2 PhD students, ten third year BSc Biology students and three visiting postdoctoral researchers. In addition, I have given taster lectures in History of Science for the University of Leeds pre-sessional course and also been actively involved in outreach activities (Discovery Zone 2010-2017).