Dr George Littlejohn
Profiles

Dr George Littlejohn

Lecturer in Applied Biology

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

Biography

Biography

2016 – present Lecturer in Applied Biology and Programme Lead, Biosciences,  School of Biological and Marine Sciences, Plymouth University

Qualifications

2012 – 2016 Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter

2007 – 2012 Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter

2006 – 2007 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Plant Science Group, IBLS, University of Glasgow

1999 – 2006 PhD, University of Glasgow

1994 – 1999 B.Sc.(Hons), Genetics (With Work Placement) University of Glasgow

Professional membership

2018 – present Member, British Society for Plant Pathology

2016 – present Member, International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions

2014 – present Fellow, Royal Microscopical Society ( 2010– 2014, Ordinary Member)  

2013 – present Fellow, Higher Education Academy (2010-2014, Associate Fellow)                     

2012 – 2016 Member, American Society of Plant Biologists

2010 – present Member, European Microscopy Society 

2010 – present Member, Society for Experimental Biology (President's Medallist, EPA, 2014)

Roles on external bodies

2017 BBSRC grant review panel member    

2016 BBSRC Bioimaging Review Group    

2015 – 2018 SEB+ Section Chair, Council Member & trustee, Society for Experimental Biology 

Key publications

Littlejohn GR, Breen S, Smirnoff N & Grant M (2020) 'Chloroplast immunity illuminated' New Phytologist 229, (6) 3088-3107 , DOI
Sakulkoo W, Osés-Ruiz M, Oliveira Garcia E, Soanes DM, Littlejohn GR, Hacker C, Correia A, Valent B & Talbot NJ (2018) 'A single fungal MAP kinase controls plant cell-to-cell invasion by the rice blast fungus' Science 359, (6382) 1399-1403 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
de Torres Zabala M, Littlejohn G, Jayaraman S, Studholme D, Bailey T, Lawson T, Tillich M, Licht D, Bölter B & Delfino L (2015) 'Chloroplasts play a central role in plant defence and are targeted by pathogen effectors' Nature Plants 1, (6) 0-0 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Parker D, Lind R, Perfect S, Seymour M, Smirnoff N, Love J & Moger J (2015) 'In Vivo Chemical and Structural Analysis of Plant Cuticular Waxes Using Stimulated Raman Scattering Microscopy' Plant Physiology 168, (1) 18-28 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Christmas JT, Witterick E, Fricker MD, Grant MR, Smirnoff N, Everson RM, Moger J & Love J (2014) 'An update: improvements in imaging perfluorocarbon-mounted plant leaves with implications for studies of plant pathology, physiology, development and cell biology' Frontiers in Plant Science 5, , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Gouveia JD, Edner C, Smirnoff N & Love J (2010) 'Perfluorodecalin enhances in vivo confocal microscopy resolution of Arabidopsis thaliana mesophyll' New Phytologist 186, (4) 1018-1025 , DOI Open access
View all publications
Teaching

Teaching

Teaching interests

I enjoy teaching and have a particular interest in research-led teaching. I currently teach on the following modules:

  • BIO014 Biology 1: Lectures on food security and green revolution
  • BIO013 Biology 2: Lectures and practicals on photosynthesis, plant physiology and development
  • BIOL119 Introduction to biology: Microscopy practicals
  • BIOL129Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1: Careers sessions and tutorials
  • BIOL132Z Ecology and Diversity of Life: Lectures on diversity of plants, algae, fungi
  • BIOL133Z Principles of Physiology: Lectures on plant signalling, plant hormones, flowering, plant-microbe interactions. Auxin practical.
  • BIOL225Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2: Careers sessions and tutorials
  • BIOL235Z Plant Ecophysiology: Lectures on plant-pathogen interactions, problem solving workshops
  • BIOL220Z Molecular Biology: Lectures on molecular biology, gene editing.
  • BIOL301(Z) Plant Biotechnology (Module Lead): Lectures on plant biotechnology, synthetic biology. Workshops on socioeconomic and ethical aspects, gene mining and GM/GE strategy.
  • BIOL317Z Advanced Skills and Concepts: Practicals, lectures and workshops on microscopy and image analysis
  • BIOL321(Z) Pharmacology and Natural Products: Lectures on fungal natural products.
  • BIOL314 / BIOL315Z Final Year Project (Module Lead): Final year project supervision and module organisation.
I am also Programme Lead for the Bioscience top-up degree and Employability Lead for the Biological Sciences Subject Group.

Staff serving as external examiners

2020     University of Glasgow PhD external examiner

2020, 2021 University of Exeter MRes external examiner

Research

Research

Research interests

Research in my group centres around plant-pathogen interactions and the use of complementary imaging modalities in plant stress biology. We focus on (1) understanding the cellular and molecular basis of rice blast disease and (2) non-invasive image-based diagnosis of plant disease and stress biology.

Rice blast fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae) kills enough rice each year to feed 60 million people. We are working to understand the basic processes of infection and use molecular and imaging-based techniques. This has been greatly facilitated in the academic year 2018-19 by the acquisition by UoP of a new confocal microscope, which is allowing us to explore in much greater detail and with greater sensitivity, mechanisms of infection. In addition, we use molecular genetic manipulation (including CRISPR-Cas9) and diagnostic techniques, which gives a complete toolkit to pursue a research programme in the whole organism and cell biology of plant pathogen interactions. 

Current projects in the lab are (1) The role of the circadian clock in rice blast disease (Ciaran Griffin, UoP studentship), (2) Fluorescence imaging for Nutrition and Disease (FIND) (Dr. Naofel Aljafer and Mrs. Angela Harrop, ERDF funded), which is using plant chlorophyll imaging to give pre-symptomatic diagnosis of plant disease, which has implications for agriculture (3) The role of the chloroplast in plant immunity.

In addition to our core research in plant pathology, the laboratory is also engaged in several funded collaborative projects (see grants and contracts).

Grants & contracts

2021 - 2023   Co-Investigator (PI, Prof. Mark Fitzsimons, UoP) INTERREG "Recon Soil"

2021 - 2024    Co-Investigator (PI, Dr. Jon Ellis, UoP), Wherefore the magic? Investigating the origin of psychedelic compounds in nature. Levehulme Trust

2020 - 2024   Co-Investigator (PI, Prof. Richard Thompson FRS., UoP) BIO-PLASTIC-RISK "Biodegradable Bioplastics – Assessing Environmental Risk" ID: NE/V007556/1, NERC

2020 - 2022   Co- Investigator (with Ciaran Griffin, PhD student) The metabolic inhibition of sporulation in the rice blast pathogen, Magnaporthe oryzae. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.

2018 - 2021   Principal Investigator Agritech Cornwall, FIND Project: Image-based early diagnosis of plant health. European Regional Development Fund.

2018 - 2020    Principal Investigator (with Dr. Will Vevers) Investigating the biocontrol of fungal pathogens using epiphytic bacteria from Abies nordmanniana. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.

2017 - 2019   Principal Investigator Multi-scale imaging of pathogen-chloroplast interaction during rice blast disease progression. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.

2017 - 2021    Principal Investigator / PhD Supervisor The role of circadian entrainment in rice blast disease. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Plymouth University.


Publications

Publications

Key publications

Littlejohn GR, Breen S, Smirnoff N & Grant M (2020) 'Chloroplast immunity illuminated' New Phytologist 229, (6) 3088-3107 , DOI
Sakulkoo W, Osés-Ruiz M, Oliveira Garcia E, Soanes DM, Littlejohn GR, Hacker C, Correia A, Valent B & Talbot NJ (2018) 'A single fungal MAP kinase controls plant cell-to-cell invasion by the rice blast fungus' Science 359, (6382) 1399-1403 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
de Torres Zabala M, Littlejohn G, Jayaraman S, Studholme D, Bailey T, Lawson T, Tillich M, Licht D, Bölter B & Delfino L (2015) 'Chloroplasts play a central role in plant defence and are targeted by pathogen effectors' Nature Plants 1, (6) 0-0 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Parker D, Lind R, Perfect S, Seymour M, Smirnoff N, Love J & Moger J (2015) 'In Vivo Chemical and Structural Analysis of Plant Cuticular Waxes Using Stimulated Raman Scattering Microscopy' Plant Physiology 168, (1) 18-28 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Christmas JT, Witterick E, Fricker MD, Grant MR, Smirnoff N, Everson RM, Moger J & Love J (2014) 'An update: improvements in imaging perfluorocarbon-mounted plant leaves with implications for studies of plant pathology, physiology, development and cell biology' Frontiers in Plant Science 5, , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Gouveia JD, Edner C, Smirnoff N & Love J (2010) 'Perfluorodecalin enhances in vivo confocal microscopy resolution of Arabidopsis thaliana mesophyll' New Phytologist 186, (4) 1018-1025 , DOI Open access

Key publications are highlighted

Journals
Articles
Lopez-Moya F, Martin-Urdiroz M, Oses-Ruiz M, Were VM, Fricker MD, Littlejohn G, Lopez-Llorca LV & Talbot NJ (2021) 'Chitosan inhibits septin‐mediated plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae in a protein kinase C and Nox1 NADPH oxidase‐dependent manner' New Phytologist 230, (4) 1578-1593 , DOI
Griffin C & Littlejohn GR (2021) 'Diurnal, , and Photomorphogenic Analyses in Magnaporthe oryzae' 161-172 , DOI
Littlejohn GR, Breen S, Smirnoff N & Grant M (2020) 'Chloroplast immunity illuminated' New Phytologist 229, (6) 3088-3107 , DOI
Littlejohn GR (2018) 'SUMO enters the ring: the emerging role of SUMOylation in Magnaporthe oryzae pathogenicity' New Phytologist 219, (3) 848-849 , DOI Open access
Sassmann S, Rodrigues C, Milne SW, Nenninger A, Allwood E, Littlejohn GR, Talbot NJ, Soeller C, Davies B & Hussey PJ (2018) 'An Immune-Responsive Cytoskeletal-Plasma Membrane Feedback Loop in Plants' Curr Biol 28, (13) 2136-2144.e7 Author Site , DOI Open access
Sakulkoo W, Osés-Ruiz M, Oliveira Garcia E, Soanes DM, Littlejohn GR, Hacker C, Correia A, Valent B & Talbot NJ (2018) 'A single fungal MAP kinase controls plant cell-to-cell invasion by the rice blast fungus' Science 359, (6382) 1399-1403 Publisher Site , DOI Open access
Fones HN & Littlejohn GR (2017) 'From Sample to Data: Preparing, Obtaining, and Analyzing Images of Plant-Pathogen Interactions Using Confocal Microscopy' 257-262 , DOI
Sambles C, Moore K, Lux TM, Jones K, Littlejohn GR, Gouveia JD, Aves SJ, Studholme DJ, Lee R & Love J (2017) 'Metagenomic analysis of the complex microbial consortium associated with cultures of the oil-rich algaBotryococcus braunii' MicrobiologyOpen 6, (4) e00482-e00482 , DOI Open access
Osés-Ruiz M, Sakulkoo W, Littlejohn GR, Martin-Urdiroz M & Talbot NJ (2016) 'Two independent S-phase checkpoints regulate appressorium-mediated plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 114, (2) E237-E244 , DOI Open access
FRICKER MARKD, MOGER JULIAN, LITTLEJOHN GEORGER & DEEKS MICHAELJ (2016) 'Making microscopy count: quantitative light microscopy of dynamic processes in living plants' Journal of Microscopy 263, (2) 181-191 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Scott G & Williams M (2016) 'Innovations and best practice in undergraduate education' F1000Research 5, 646-646 , DOI Open access
Gupta YK, Dagdas YF, Martinez-Rocha A-L, Kershaw MJ, Littlejohn GR, Ryder LS, Sklenar J, Menke F & Talbot NJ (2015) 'Septin-Dependent Assembly of the Exocyst Is Essential for Plant Infection by Magnaporthe oryzae' The Plant Cell 27, (11) 3277-3289 , DOI Open access
Lewis LA, Polanski K, de Torres-Zabala M, Jayaraman S, Bowden L, Moore J, Penfold CA, Jenkins DJ, Hill C & Baxter L (2015) 'Transcriptional Dynamics Driving MAMP-Triggered Immunity and Pathogen Effector-Mediated Immunosuppression in Arabidopsis Leaves Following Infection with Pseudomonas syringae pv tomato DC3000' The Plant Cell 27, (11) 3038-3064 , DOI Open access
de Torres Zabala M, Littlejohn G, Jayaraman S, Studholme D, Bailey T, Lawson T, Tillich M, Licht D, Bölter B & Delfino L (2015) 'Chloroplasts play a central role in plant defence and are targeted by pathogen effectors' Nature Plants 1, (6) 0-0 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Parker D, Lind R, Perfect S, Seymour M, Smirnoff N, Love J & Moger J (2015) 'In Vivo Chemical and Structural Analysis of Plant Cuticular Waxes Using Stimulated Raman Scattering Microscopy' Plant Physiology 168, (1) 18-28 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Meckel T, Schwarzländer M & Costa A (2014) 'Functional imaging in living plants—cell biology meets physiology' Frontiers in Plant Science 5, , DOI Open access
Hutt H, Everson R, Grant M, Love J & Littlejohn G (2014) 'How clumpy is my image?' Soft Computing 19, (6) 1541-1552 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR, Mansfield JC, Christmas JT, Witterick E, Fricker MD, Grant MR, Smirnoff N, Everson RM, Moger J & Love J (2014) 'An update: improvements in imaging perfluorocarbon-mounted plant leaves with implications for studies of plant pathology, physiology, development and cell biology' Frontiers in Plant Science 5, , DOI Open access
Mansfield JC, Littlejohn GR, Seymour MP, Lind RJ, Perfect S & Moger J (2013) 'Label-free Chemically Specific Imaging in Planta with Stimulated Raman Scattering Microscopy' Analytical Chemistry 85, (10) 5055-5063 , DOI Open access
Exposito-Rodriguez M, Laissue PP, Littlejohn GR, Smirnoff N & Mullineaux PM (2013) 'The Use of HyPer to Examine Spatial and Temporal Changes in H2O2 in High Light-Exposed Plants' 185-201 , DOI Open access
Littlejohn GR & Love J (2012) 'A Simple Method for Imaging <em>Arabidopsis</em> Leaves Using Perfluorodecalin as an Infiltrative Imaging Medium' Journal of Visualized Experiments (59) , DOI
Littlejohn GR, Gouveia JD, Edner C, Smirnoff N & Love J (2010) 'Perfluorodecalin enhances in vivo confocal microscopy resolution of Arabidopsis thaliana mesophyll' New Phytologist 186, (4) 1018-1025 , DOI Open access
(2007) 'Errata' The Plant Journal 51, (4) 738-738 , DOI
Campanoni P, Sutter JU, Davis CS, Littlejohn GR & Blatt MR (2007) 'A generalized method for transfecting root epidermis uncovers endosomal dynamics in Arabidopsis root hairs (vol 51, pg 322, 2007)' PLANT JOURNAL 51, (4) 738-738 Author Site
Campanoni P, Sutter JU, Davis CS, Littlejohn GR & Blatt MR (2007) 'A generalized method for transfecting root epidermis uncovers endosomal dynamics in Arabidopsis root hairs' The Plant Journal 51, (2) 322-330 , DOI Open access
Oses-Ruiz M, Martin-Urdiroz M, Soanes DM, Kershaw MJ, Cruz-Mireles N, Valdovinos-Ponce G, Molinari C, Littlejohn GR, Derbyshire P & Menke F 'A hierarchical transcriptional network controls appressorium-mediated plant infection by the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae' , DOI
Lopez-Moya F, Martin-Urdiroz M, Oses-Ruiz M, Fricker MD, Littlejohn GR, Lopez-Llorca LV & Talbot NJ 'Chitosan inhibits septin-mediated plant infection by the rice blast fungusMagnaporthe oryzaein a Protein Kinase C and Nox1 NADPH oxidase-dependent manner' , DOI
Books
(2015) Functional Imaging in living Plants - Cell Biology meets Physiology. Frontiers Media SA , DOI
Chapters
Foster AJ, Littlejohn GR, Soanes DM & Talbot NJ (2016) 'Strategies for nutrient acquisition by Magnaporthe oryzae during the infection of rice' Host - Pathogen Interaction Microbial Metabolism, Pathogenicity and Antiinfectives John Wiley & Sons
Conference Papers
Oses-Ruiz M, Martin-Urdiroz M, Soanes D, Kershaw MJ, Littlejohn G, Cruz-Mireles N, Derbyshire P, Menke FLH & Talbot NJ (2019) 'A hierarchical transcriptional network controls appressorium development in the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe oryzae in response to surface hydrophobicity' 218-218
Breen S, Brown H, Zabala MDT, Arnaud D, Hussain RF, Kulasekaran S, Smirnoff N, Schwarzlaender M, Littlejohn G & Grant MR (2019) 'Chloroplasts, a major hub of immune signaling' 136-136
Gaikwad T, Breen S, Kulasekaran S, Arnaud D, Hussain RF, Smirnoff N, Breeze E, Alfano JR, Littlejohn G & Grant MR (2019) 'The role of chloroplasts in disease and defence' 232-232
Griffin CD, Foster A, Soanes D, Plessis A, Hanley ME, Talbot NJ & Littlejohn G (2019) 'The role of circadian entrainment in the outcome of rice blast infection' 45-45
Hutt H, Everson R, Grant M, Love J & Littlejohn G (2013) 'How clumpy is my image? Evaluating crowdsourced annotation tasks' 2013 13th UK Workshop on Computational Intelligence (UKCI) 9-/-0/20139-/-0/2013IEEE , DOI
Personal

Personal

Reports & invited lectures

2020  Research seminar (via Zoom), University of Arkansas, USA

2020  Research seminar (via Zoom), University of Alicante, Spain

2019  Invited talk, GARNet Workshop: Advances in Plant Imaging, University of Warwick, UK.

2018  Research seminar, University of York, UK

2017  Research seminar, University of Warwick, UK

2016  Research seminar, University of Alicante, Spain

2016  Invited lecture series on advanced imaging, University of Alicante, Spain

2015  Research seminar, University of Durham, UK.

2015  Research seminar, Centre for Plant Integrative Biology, University of Nottingham, UK.

2015  12th New Phytologist workshop “The apoplast as battleground for plant–microbe interactions” Gießen, Germany.

2015  Research seminar, Institute of Phytomedicine, University of Bonn, Germany.

2014  Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medallist Talk (Education & PublicAffairs), Main Meeting, Manchester, UK.

2014  Society for Experimental Biology, Careers Talk, SEB Main Meeting, Manchester, UK.

2010  Research talk and biography, Britain Needs Bioscientists, University of Exeter,Tremough, UK. 

Conferences organised

2017            Co-chair, Light-sheet microscopy,  RMS MMC Meeting , Manchester, UK

2017            Co-chair, Imaging pathogenesis in plants, SEB Main Meeting , Gothenburg, Sweden

2017            Co-chair, The research and teaching nexus, SEB Main Meeting , Gothenburg, Sweden

2016           Chair, Science with Impact Plenary Session, SEB Main Meeting , Brighton, UK

2015            Co-chair, Innovations in undergraduate teaching Session, SEB Main Meeting , Prague, Czech Republic

2014               Lead applicant and co-organiser:“Undergraduates never do anything useful” Workshop, University of Exeter. (ASPB blog post covering the event here: http://blog.aspb.org/2014/04/28/research-led-teaching-opportunities-for-early-career-researchers/)

2012            Co-organiser, How to be a Great Teacher workshop, International Conference on Arabidopsis Research , Vienna, Austria

2011 – 2016       Co-organiser, Exeter Imaging Network

Other academic activities

I am actively involved in the Society for Experimental Biology, where I sat on the SEB Council and Chaired the SEB+ section (2015-18). More information here: http://www.sebiology.org/SEBplus/about-seb


I also act as reviewer for several academic publications and funding bodies and contributed to the BBSRC Bioimaging Review, 2016.

Additional information

Awards

2020     University of Plymouth UPSU SSTAR Award – Sensational Programme Lead (FoSE), Environmental Biotechnology

2014     Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medal (Education and Public Affairs).

2013 – 14 Exeter University Merit Award

2012 – 13  Exeter University Merit Award

2010     European Biophysics Award: 1st Prize for a presentation at the Società Italiana di Fisica International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” CLXXVII Course “Advanced Methods in Optical Fluorescence Microscopy Towards Nanoscopy”

2007 – 08 Exeter University Merit Award

1999          Pontecorvo Prize in Genetics (Graduating class 1st prize), University ofGlasgow

 

Distinctions

2015          Elected Society for Experimental Biology EPA (SEB+) SectionChair

2015         Council Member, Trustee and Cell and EPA (SEB+) Section Committees, Society for Experimental Biology

2014          Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (Ordinary Member 2010-2014)

2013          Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (Associate 2010 – 2013)

2012          University of Exeter ASPIRE Fellow (awarded for research-led education).

 

Twitter: @geolittlejohn