Julian Schwerdt

Julian Schwerdt

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences

I'm a computational biologist and began my scientific career as a software developer building biological databases in the UK. I returned to Australia to take up a position at the South Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (SAPAC) as a Bioinformatics Specialist. This involved a close association with the Australian Centre for Plant Function Genomics (ACPFG) which in turn lead to a Ph.D and post-doctoral position at the ACPFG and the ARC CoE for Plant Cell Walls. My interests are in protein family evolution, coevolution networks and recently biological applications for machine learning.

My Ph.D research focused on the evolutionary history and dynamics of the cellulose synthase superfamily in the angiosperms (flowering plants). This aimed to explore how a family of proteins have evolved to produce the diversity of carbohydrates we consume for food, fuel and materials. We reconstructed molecular sequence evolution to infer when protein families evolved and how natural selection has shaped this process. The association of this snippet of evolution with other observed changes such as morphology and protein structural elements can now be used to predict protein function and other characteristics of a stubbornly inscrutable protein superfamily.


As a postdoctoral researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, my present research focuses on understanding the synthesis and interactions of cell wall carbohydrates and their evolution in the context of plant survival strategies and interactions with fungal pathogens. I use computational methods related to phylogenetics, genomics, transcriptomics, and homology modeling. My currents projects include:

  • Plant genome assembly
  • Phylogenetics of cell wall associated enzyme pathway
  • Reconstructing the sequences of ancestral proteins
  • Coevolution network analysis
  • Applications of machine learning methodologies to phenotyping
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2017 Post-doctoral researcher ARC CoE Plant Cell Walls
    2012 Bioinformatician ARC CoE Plant Cell Walls
    2004 - 2008 Bioinformatics Computer Specialist South Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing
  • Research Interests

  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2021 Schwerdt, J., Qiu, H., Shirley, N., Little, A., & Bulone, V. (2021). Phylogenomic analyses of nucleotide-sugar biosynthetic and interconverting enzymes illuminate cell wall composition in fungi. mBio, 12(2), 1-14.
    2020 Stratilová, B., Šesták, S., Mravec, J., Garajova, S., Pakanová, Z., Vadinová, K., . . . Hrmova, M. (2020). Another building block in the plant cell wall: Barley xyloglucan xyloglucosyl transferases link covalently xyloglucan and anionic oligosaccharides derived from pectin. The Plant Journal, 104(3), 752-767.
    DOI Scopus4 WoS4 Europe PMC2
    2020 Betts, N. S., Collins, H. M., Shirley, N. J., Cuesta-Seijo, J. A., Schwerdt, J. G., Phillips, R. J., . . . Bulone, V. (2020). Identification and spatio-temporal expression analysis of barley genes that encode putative modular xylanolytic enzymes. Plant Science, 308, 1-12.
    2019 Little, A., Lahnstein, J., Jeffery, D. W., Khor, S. F., Schwerdt, J. G., Shirley, N., . . . Bulone, V. (2019). A novel (1,4)-β-linked glucoxylan is synthesized by members of the cellulose synthase-like F gene family in land plants. ACS Central Science, 5(1), 73-84.
    DOI Scopus11 WoS12 Europe PMC8
    2019 Crowe-Riddell, J. M., Simões, B. F., Partridge, J. C., Hunt, D. M., Delean, S., Schwerdt, J. G., . . . Sanders, K. L. (2019). Phototactic tails: evolution and molecular basis of a novel sensory trait in sea snakes. Molecular Ecology, 28(8), 1-16.
    DOI Scopus6 WoS6 Europe PMC5
    2019 Pham, T. A., Schwerdt, J. G., Shirley, N. J., Xing, X., Bulone, V., Little, A., & Kyriacou, B. (2019). Composition and biosynthetic machinery of the Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei conidia cell wall. The Cell Surface, 5, 100029-1-100029-9.
    DOI Scopus4
    2019 Pham, T. A. T., Schwerdt, J. G., Shirley, N. G., Xing, X., Hsieh, Y. S. Y., Srivastava, V., . . . Little, A. (2019). Analysis of cell wall synthesis and metabolism during early germination of Blumeria graminis f. sp. hordei conidial cells induced in vitro. The Cell Surface, 5, 13 pages.
    DOI Scopus5 Europe PMC1
    2019 Bulone, V., Schwerdt, J. G., & Fincher, G. B. (2019). Co-evolution of enzymes involved in plant cell wall metabolism in the grasses. Frontiers in Plant Science, 10, 13 pages.
    DOI Scopus10 WoS10 Europe PMC4
    2018 Little, A., Schwerdt, J., Shirley, N., Khor, S., Neumann, K., O'Donovan, L., . . . Burton, R. (2018). Revised phylogeny of the Cellulose Synthase gene superfamily: insights into cell wall evolution. Plant Physiology, 177(3), 1124-1141.
    DOI Scopus56 WoS51 Europe PMC33
    2017 Chowdhury, J., Lück, S., Rajaraman, J., Douchkov, D., Shirley, N., Schwerdt, J., . . . Little, A. (2017). Altered expression of genes implicated in xylan biosynthesis affects penetration resistance against powdery mildew. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 445-1-445-12.
    DOI Scopus10 WoS12 Europe PMC5
    2017 Hassan, A., Houston, K., Lahnstein, J., Shirley, N., Schwerdt, J., Gidley, M., . . . Burton, R. (2017). A Genome Wide Association Study of arabinoxylan content in 2-row spring barley grain. PLoS ONE, 12(8), e0182537-1-e0182537-19.
    DOI Scopus15 WoS11 Europe PMC8
    2016 Dimitroff, G., Little, A., Lahnstein, J., Schwerdt, J., Srivastava, V., Bulone, V., . . . Fincher, G. (2016). (1,3;1,4)-β-glucan biosynthesis by the CSLF6 enzyme: position and flexibility of catalytic residues influence product fine structure. Biochemistry, 55(13), 2054-2061.
    DOI Scopus20 WoS20 Europe PMC16
    2016 Marcotuli, I., Houston, K., Schwerdt, J., Waugh, R., Fincher, G., Burton, R., . . . Gadaleta, A. (2016). Genetic diversity and genome wide association study of β-glucan content in tetraploid wheat grains. PLoS One, 11(4), e0152590-1-e0152590-15.
    DOI Scopus26 WoS25 Europe PMC16
    2016 Sato, K., Yamane, M., Yamaji, N., Kanamori, H., Tagiri, A., Schwerdt, J., . . . Komatsuda, T. (2016). Alanine aminotransferase controls seed dormancy in barley. Nature Communications, 7(1), 11625-1-11625-9.
    DOI Scopus53 WoS51 Europe PMC28
    2016 Paull, R., Chen, N., Ming, R., Wai, C., Shirley, N., Schwerdt, J., & Bulone, V. (2016). Carbon Flux and Carbohydrate Gene Families in Pineapple. Tropical Plant Biology, 9(3), 200-213.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS8
    2015 Wong, S., Shirley, N., Little, A., Khoo, K., Schwerdt, J., Fincher, G., . . . Mather, D. (2015). Differential expression of the HvCslF6 gene late in grain development may explain quantitative differences in (1,3;1,4)-β-glucan concentration in barley. Molecular Breeding, 35(1), 20-1-20-12.
    DOI Scopus8 WoS8 Europe PMC2
    2015 Ermawar, R., Collins, H., Byrt, C., Betts, N., Henderson, M., Shirley, N., . . . Burton, R. (2015). Distribution, structure and biosynthetic gene families of (1,3;1,4)-β-glucan in Sorghum bicolor. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology, 57(4), 429-445.
    DOI Scopus17 WoS17 Europe PMC12
    2015 Schwerdt, J., MacKenzie, K., Wright, F., Oehme, D., Wagner, J., Harvey, A., . . . Fincher, G. (2015). Evolutionary dynamics of the cellulose synthase gene superfamily in grasses. Plant Physiology, 168(3), 968-983.
    DOI Scopus29 WoS29 Europe PMC19
    2015 Ermawar, R., Collins, H., Byrt, C., Henderson, M., O'Donovan, L., Shirley, N., . . . Burton, R. (2015). Genetics and physiology of cell wall polysaccharides in the model C₄ grass, Setaria viridis spp. BMC Plant Biology, 15(1), 236-1-236-18.
    DOI Scopus9 WoS7 Europe PMC5
    2014 Schreiber, M., Wright, F., MacKenzie, K., Hedley, P., Schwerdt, J., Little, A., . . . Halpin, C. (2014). The barley genome sequence assembly reveals three additional members of the CslF (1,3;1,4)-β-glucan synthase gene family. PLoS One, 9(3), e90888-1-e90888-9.
    DOI Scopus31 WoS28 Europe PMC17
    2008 Jones, C., Schwerdt, J., Bretag, T., Baumann, U., & Brown, A. (2008). GOSLING: a rule-based protein annotator using BLAST and GO. Bioinformatics, 24(22), 2628-2629.
    DOI Scopus9 WoS8 Europe PMC5
  • Datasets

    Year Citation
    Schwerdt, J., Little, A., Bulone, V., Shirley, N., & Qiu, H. (n.d.). Fungal NSI enzyme HMM.
  • Filesets

    Year Citation
    Crowe-Riddell, J., Simoes, B., Schwerdt, J., Ludington, A., Breen, J., & Sanders, K. (n.d.). Phototactic tails manuscript ESM-Files.

2008 - Grains Research & Development Corporation GRS Post-graduate scholarship.

2010 to present, Master of Plant Biotechnology (bioinformatics course)

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