Iain Searle

Associate Professor Iain Searle

Lab.Head, Dir. Centre of Grains for Health

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Epigenetic and post-transcriptional gene regluation 

Luciferase sensor demonstrating RNA 5-methlycytosine regulates translation.
Leaf infiltrated with luciferase control and m5C sensor constructs. Left, white light. Right, control and m5C sensors.

Our research in plant and animal epigenetics and RNA modifications has been driven by a strong interest in understanding and elucidating the molecular mechanisms of how plants and animals adapt to environmental signalling and how speciation barriers evolve in plants. We use a combination of next-generation sequencing, bioinformatics and synthetic biology to describe and elucidate the function of these epigenetic components.

Epigenetics, broadly defined, refers to all genetic information not encoded in the DNA sequence, with the best-understood consequence of epigenetic modifications being the regulation of gene expression. Although gene transcription and protein synthesis is required for plant development, the full repertoire of epigenetic mechanisms underpinning biological adaptation and speciation barriers remain equivocal.

The majority of the genome is pervasively transcribed such that more than 90% of transcriptional activity is related to the production of various long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA), which possess no or limited protein-coding capacity. Expansion of these transcriptionally active non-coding sequences in plant and animal genomes appears to have occurred primarily in higher multicellular organisms. We have identified thousands of novel lncRNAs transcribed in plants.

Furthermore, we have demonstrated RNA modifications, for example 5-methylcytosine (m5C) play an important role in extending the transcriptional space. Thus, both RNA modifications and lncRNAs represent attractive candidates for achieving context- and stimulus-specific epigenetic regulation of gene expression.

Honours, Masters, PhD and postdoctoral synthetic biology and biotechnology projects in epigenetics and bioinformatics are available. Email me at, iain.searle@adelaide.edu.au, for further information.


Sustainable crops for arid Australia

Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, legume
High protein common vetch field.

Australia is a hot, dry country and often water limits crop yields. We are developing Common Vetch, Vicia sativa, as a high protein, drought tolerant legume for arid Australia. We are accelerating common vetch improvement by; developing extensive genomic resources using a combination of second and third generation sequencing and bioinformatics, combining these large datasets with phenotyping information, and then using next generation breeding technologies (NBT), like CRISPR genome editing. We are working closely with the National Vetch Breeding program at SARDI (Waite campus) to further develop vetch.



Honours, Masters, PhD and postdoctoral CRISPR and biotechnology projects in are available. Email me at, iain.searle@adelaide.edu.au, for further information.


Pollination Mechanisms

Brassica flowering and honey bee
A canola flower displaying an outcrossing mechanism.

We are interested in how plants promote outcrossing to increase population fitness. We are using the model crop Brassica rapa to solve the molecular basis of an outcrossing mechanism. Conversely, these outcrossing mechanisms can decrease seed and crop yields and we are working with industrial partners to determine if we can increase crops yields.

Honours, Masters, PhD and postdoctoral ecology and industry projects in are available. Email me at, iain.searle@adelaide.edu.au, for further information.



Interested in joining our laboratory as an undergraduate placement student or postgraduate student? What to join our mentor programme? Ready to excel and be challenged with fascinating biological questions? Please don't hesitate to email me- iain.searle@adelaide.edu.au.



Our group's publications are available here.






  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2018 Senior Lecturer University of Adelaide
    2014 - 2018 ARC Future Fellow University of Adelaide
    2009 - 2014 ARC QEII Fellow Australian National University
  • Language Competencies

    Language Competency
    German Can speak and understand spoken
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2004 University of Queensland Australia PhD
    1996 University of Queensland Australia B Ag Sci Hons
  • Postgraduate Training

    Date Title Institution Country
    2007 - 2009 Wellcome Trust VIP Fellow University of Cambridge United Kingdom
    2006 - 2007 Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow The Sainsbury Laboratory United Kingdom
    2002 - 2006 Max Planck Postdoctoral Fellow Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research Germany

Competitive funding only listed below

  • Yitpi foundation grant- Chief Investigators Searle and Nguyen (2020) 
  • SAGIT grant- Investigators Searle and Nagel (2020-2023)
  • ARC Discovery Grant DP190101303- Investigators Searle and Studholme (2019-2021)
  • Hermon Slade Foundation- Investigator Searle (2017-2020)
  • ACSRF Australia-China Joint Research Centre of Grains for Health- Investigators, Searle, et al (2016-2019)
  • ARC Future Fellowship FT130100525- Investigator Searle (2014-2018)
  • ASTE Travel Grant- Investigator Searle (2015)
  • ACSRF Australia-China Young Scientists Exchange Programme- Investigator Searle (2014)
  • GRDC E-Innovation award- EzyCross- Investigators Searle & Salisbury (2013-2014)
  • GRDC Travel Grant- Investigator Searle (2013)
  • ANU Connect Ventures Direct Translation Fund- Investigators Lohe and Searle (2012)
  • CSIRO SEIF top-up PhD scholarship- Investigators Searle and Helliwell (2011-2013)
  • ARC Discovery Grant DP110103805- Investigators Searle and Helliwell (2011-2013)
  • ARC QEII Fellowship DP0988846- Investigator Searle (2009-2014)
  • Wellcome Trust Value-In-People Award- Investigator Searle (2008-2009)
  • Epigenome travel scholarship- Investigator Searle (2007)
  • Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship- Investigator Searle (2006-2007)
  • Interim UOC-UA Biotechnology program coordinator (from 1st Sept 2020-30th Dec 2021)
  • BIOTECH 7040- Coordinator for Applications of Next Generation Sequencing
  • GENETICS 2510- Genetics IIA
  • GENETICS 3211- Gene Expression & Human Developmental Genetics III
  • SCIENCE 3500- Opening Doors to the Middle Kingdom
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 Principal Supervisor Application of Second and Third-Generation Sequencing to Vicia sativa Improvement Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Hangwei Xi
    2019 Principal Supervisor Vetch as a New Protein Source for the Human Diet Doctor of Philosophy under a Jointly-awarded Degree Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Mr Samuel Arthur George Riley
    2019 Principal Supervisor The role of RNA modifications on RNA Processing in Arabidopsis thaliana Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Pei Qin Ng
    2018 Principal Supervisor The Role of RNA Modifications in Endosperm Development Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Huong Thi Thuy Ta
    2017 Principal Supervisor Identification of an RNA m5C demethylose from plants Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Xingyu Wu
    2017 Co-Supervisor Major Evolutionary Adaptive Events in Brassicaceous Plants and Their Insect Hosts Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Christopher Michael Ward
    2017 Principal Supervisor Zero Toxin Grain Pulse Vetch Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Vy Hoang Thao Nguyen
    2016 Principal Supervisor The Role of 5-Methly Cytosine during Plant Development Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Jing Zhao
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 - 2021 Principal Supervisor The Genetic Basis of Stamen Orientation - An Outcrossing Mechanism in the Brassicaceae Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Mrs Jayashrini Sakunthala Madawala
    2016 - 2019 Co-Supervisor Don't Cry for Me: Evolutionary and Functional Analysis of Two Rice Pollen Allergens, Ory s 1 and Ory s 12 Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Deborah Devis
    2016 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Identification and functional analysis of RNA modifications in Arabidopsis thaliana and Mus musculus Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Jun Li
    2014 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Identification and Functional Characterization of Long Noncoding RNAs Involved in Endosperm Development of Arabidopsis thaliana Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Quang Trung Do
    2013 - 2016 Co-Supervisor Genome-wide Characterisation of microRNAs and their target genes in different durum wheat genotypes under water limiting conditions Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Haipei Liu
    2013 - 2016 Principal Supervisor Conservation and Function of RNA 5-methylcytosine in Plants Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Alice Louise Burgess
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2011 - ongoing Consulting Editor Frontiers in Genetics and Genomics
  • Offices Held

    Date Office Name Institution Country
    2018 - ongoing Australian Epigenetic Alliance- South Australian Representative Australian Epigenetic Alliance (AEpiA) Australia
    2016 - 2017 Deputy Head of the Department of Genetics and Evolution School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide Australia
    2015 - ongoing GSA South Australian Representative on Executive Genetics Society of AustralAsia Australia
  • Position: Lab.Head, Dir. Centre of Grains for Health
  • Phone: 83133266
  • Email: iain.searle@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8313 4362
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Molecular Life Sciences, floor 2
  • Room: 2 31
  • Org Unit: Molecular and Biomedical Science

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External Profiles