Matthew Tucker

Associate Professor Matthew Tucker

ARC Future Fellow

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD, but is currently at capacity - email supervisor to discuss availability.

A/Prof Tucker is a developmental geneticist with research expertise in plant reproduction, seed development and cell wall biosynthesis. He received his PhD from the University of Adelaide and CSIRO Plant Industry in 2003, undertook postdoctoral research as an EMBO fellow at the University of Freiburg in Germany and in 2011 joined the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls as a Senior Research Fellow. In 2015 he was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship and in 2017 was promoted to Associate Professor.

Research in his laboratory investigates how different cell types form in the ovule, seed and root, with the aim of understanding how these signals can be engineered for superior plant products and reproductive strategies. His work has been published in journals including Developmental Cell, PloS Genetics, Plant Cell and Development.

We currently have two Honours projects available in the laboratory for 2019. Please contact if you are interested.

Ovule Development


Plant reproduction delivers many fruits, grains, beverages and industrial products that are a fundamental requirement of human society. Understanding how plants produce their gametes is therefore a key area of interest to ensure stable and improved yields in the future. We have been studying ovule development in Arabidopsis, barley and Hieracium to establish how female reproductive cells are specified. Communication between different ovule cells based on their position has long been hypothesised as a mechanism controlling reproductive cell identity, but is challenging to address due to the technical difficulties in accessing them in the ovule. With partners at CSIRO Agriculture (Dr Anna Koltunow), we have developed and utilised a method for Laser Assisted Microdissection (LAM) to capture these cells and characterise genes involved in ovule development. In parallel, large scale genetic screens have led to the identification of novel markers of reproductive cell development and the delineation of molecular pathways influencing reproductive cell fate. Work in this area is supported by the ARC (, as well as international partnerships with the SEXSEED consortium (, North Carolina State University ( and the University of Freiburg (

Recent Papers:

Wilkinson LG, Bird D, Tucker M.R. (2018) Exploring the role of the ovule in cereal grain development and reproductive stress tolerance. Annual Plant Reviews

Juranic, M., Tucker, M.R., Schultz, C.J., Shirley, N.J., Taylor, J.M., Spriggs, A., Johnson, S.D., Bulone, V. and Koltunow A.M. (2018). Asexual female gametogenesis involves contact with a sexually-fated megaspore in apomictic Hieracium. Plant Physiology, 177(3):1027-1049.

Wilkinson, L. & Tucker, MR (2017). An optimised clearing protocol for the quantitative assessment of sub-epidermal ovule tissues within whole cereal pistils. Plant Methods.

Lora J, Herrero M, Tucker MR, Hormaza JI (2016) The transition from somatic to germline identity shows conserved and specialised features during angiosperm evolution. New Phytologist, DOI: 10.1111/nph.14330.

Grain Development


Cereal grains are an important dietary component that contribute benefits for human health and nutrition, and can also be utilised for industrial processes in the brewing, fibre and food industries. Within the cereal grain, different tissues such as the outer aleurone layer and inner starchy endosperm accumulate varying amounts of starch, dietary fibre and antioxidants. Genes controlling the balance between outer and inner identity might therefore be used to tailor the composition of cereal grains for specific end uses. We have been studying endosperm development in cereal species to understand the genetic basis for endosperm cell identity, with a specific focus on mechanisms that allow different cell types to communicate. This work is supported by the ARC and GRDC ( and involves international partners including the James Hutton Institute ( We also enjoy share a strong partnership with the State Breeding Institute at the University of Hohenheim ( relating to genetic analysis of complex traits in cereals.

Recent Papers:

Aubert, M.K., Coventry, S., Shirley, N.J., Betts, N.S., Würschum, T., Burton, R.A., and Tucker M.R. (2018). Differences in hydrolytic enzyme activity accompany natural variation in mature aleurone morphology in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) Scientific reports, 8:11025, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-29068-4

Zhang R, Tucker MR, Burton RA, Shirley NJ, Little A, Morris J, Milne L, Houston K, Hedley PE, Waugh R, Fincher GB (2016) The dynamics of transcript abundance during cellularisation of developing barley endosperm. Plant Physiol. doi:10.1104/pp.15.01690.

Trafford K, Haleux P, Henderson M, Parker M, Shirley NJ, Tucker MR, Fincher GB, Burton RA (2013) Grain development in Brachypodium and other grasses: Interactions between cell expansion, starch deposition and cell wall synthesis. Journal of Experimental Botany, 64(16):5033-47.

Plant Cell Walls


Plant cells are surrounded by a complex wall consisting of polysaccharides, proteins, phenolic acids and water. The cell wall fulfils a crucial role in supporting plant growth and development and defending against pathogen invasion. In collaboration with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls ( we have been studying how different components of the wall are synthesised, how they influence reproductive development. We also collaborate with Prof Diane Mather ( to determine how cell walls interact with barley parasites such as the cereal cyst nematode, Heterodera avenae.

Recent Papers:

Tucker M.R., Lou, H., Aubert, M.K., Wilkinson, L.G., Little, A., Houston, K., Pinto, S.C. and Shirley, N.J. (2018) Exploring the Role of Cell Wall-Related Genes and Polysaccharides during Plant Development. Plants 7 (2).

Wood, J. A., Tan, H. -T., Collins, H. M., Yap, K., Khor, S., Lim, W. L., Xing, X., Bulone, V., Burton, R.A., Fincher, G.B., and Tucker, M. R. (2018). Genetic and environmental factors contribute to variation in cell wall composition in mature desi chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) cotyledons. Plant, Cell & Environment. doi:10.1111/pce.13196

Tucker MR, Ma C, Phan J, Neumann K, Shirley NJ, Hahn MG, Cozzolino D, Burton RA (2017) Dissecting the genetic basis for seed coat mucilage heteroxylan biosynthesis in Plantago ovata using gamma irradiation and infrared spectroscopy. Frontiers in Plant Science, 8, 326-1-326-14. doi:10.3389/fpls.2017.00326

Phan JL, Tucker MR, Khor S-F, Shirley N, Lahnstein J, Beahan C, Bacic T, Burton RA (2016) Differences in the glycosyltransferase family 61 accompany interspecific variation in seed coat mucilage composition and heteroxylan structure in Plantago spp. Journal of Experimental Botany, 22: 6481-6495

Houston K, Tucker MR, Chowdhury J, Shirley N, Little A (2016) The plant cell wall: a complex and dynamic structure as revealed by the responses of genes under stress conditions. Front. Plant Sci., doi: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00984.

Shoot Meristem Development


ARGONAUTE proteins bind small RNA molecules to silence the transcription and translation of homologous target sequences. In Arabidopsis, several AGOs contribute to development of the embryonic shoot meristem. Using a combination of genetic screens and natural mutants, we are studying the broader network of AGO-dependent genes controlling embryonic meristem development to determine how these might be tailored to improve plant growth under adverse conditions.

Recent Papers:

Tucker MR, Roodbarkelari F, Truernit E, Adamski NM, Hinze A, Lohmueller B, Würschum T, Laux T (2013) Accession-specific modifiers act with ZWILLE/ARGONAUTE10 to maintain shoot meristem stem cells during embryogenesis in Arabidopsis. BMC Genomics, 14:809.

Knauer S, Holt AL, Rubio-Somoza I, Tucker EJ, Hinze A, Pisch M, Javelle M, Timmermans MC, Tucker MR, Laux T (2013). A protodermal miR394 signal defines a region of stem cell competence in the Arabidopsis shoot meristem. Developmental Cell, 24(2), 125-132.

M.R Tucker and T.Laux, Activating the female germline during plant development, 2018-2021, ARC DP18  

M.R. Tucker, Defining pathways that establish and maintain reproductive cell identity in plant ovules and seeds, 2014-2018, ARC Future Fellowship

D.E. Mather, J.F. Thompson, K.J. Chalmers, T.J. Sutton, M.R. Tucker, J.D. Taylor, K.H.P. Khoo, Protecting Your Crop: Development of tools to accelerate Nematode resistance gene deployment, GRDC, 2015-2020

S. Coimbra, L. Colombo, C. Spillane, E. Albertini, M. Tucker, B. Franks, B. Jones, R. Palanivelu, “SEXSEED” - Sexual Plant Reproduction – Seed formation, EU H2020-MSCARISE-2015-2020

M. Tucker, T. Laux, Y. Xu, J.G. Schwerdt, Genetic control of germline initiation in flowering plants, Universities Australia - DAAD - Australia Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme. 2016-2018





  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 Co-Supervisor Characterisation and Identification of Barley (1,3; 1,4)-B-Glucan Mutants Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Ghazwan Majid Karem
    2018 Principal Supervisor Female Germline Formation During Plant Development Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Dayton Christopher Bird
    2018 Co-Supervisor Genome-wide analysis of small-RNA and key regulators identification during barley inflorescence development Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Reyhaneh Ebrahimi Khaksefidi
    2017 Co-Supervisor Functional Analysis of Xylan Biosynthesis Candidate Genes from Barley and Plantago SPP Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Kum Foeng Ang
    2016 Co-Supervisor The role of glycosyltransferases in Barley Tip Growth Doctor of Philosophy under a Jointly-awarded Degree Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Ms Haoyu Lou
    2016 Co-Supervisor Functional Analysis of Gene Controlling Barley Inflorescence and Flower Development During Abiotic Stress Doctor of Philosophy under a Jointly-awarded Degree Agreement with Doctorate Full Time Miss Cindy Callens
    2016 Principal Supervisor PhD in Sciences - Hybrid Wheat Program Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Caterina Selva
    2016 Co-Supervisor Resistance of Cereal Crops Against Cereal Cyst Nematodes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Kara Ann Levin
    2015 Principal Supervisor Molecular and Genetic Characteristics of Early Aleurone Development in Barley and Wheat Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Matthew Kevern Aubert
    2015 Principal Supervisor Physiological and Molecular Cues Influencing Female Development in Cereal Crops Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Laura Gay Wilkinson
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2013 - 2018 Co-Supervisor Using Plantago ovata as a proxy to study plant cell wall polysaccharide biosynthesis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Jana Le-Lam-Thuy Phan
    2012 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Characterisation of the Auxin Signalling Pathway in Vitis vinifera L. cv. Shiraz Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Sarah Margaret Ann Moss
  • Position: ARC Future Fellow
  • Phone: 83139241
  • Email:
  • Fax: 8313 7102
  • Campus: Waite
  • Building: Wine Innovation Central, floor 4
  • Org Unit: School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

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