Dr Verena Kriechbaumer

Senior Lecturer in Biotechnology and Plant Sciences

Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

Verena Kriechbaumer

Role

I am a plant cell biologist and protein biochemist at Oxford Brookes University with expertise in the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER), membrane proteins and auxin biosynthesis using biochemical techniques as well as high-resolution live cell imaging. I am also the Deputy Director of the Oxford Brookes University Centre for Bioimaging.

My areas of expertise include:

  • Protein biochemistry and membrane targeting including protein-protein interactions, protein-membrane interactions, protein expression and purification, enzymology, organelle purification in plant, yeast and bacterial systems
  • Plant cell biology and molecular biology
  • High-resolution confocal live cell imaging and image analysis
  • Bioinformatics

Teaching and supervision

Courses

Modules taught

  • Module leader for Biotechnology and Professional Skills and Techniques
  • Supervision of 3rd year dissertation projects
  • Co-teacher in the Practising Scientist and Cell Biology

Supervision

I currently supervise a number of Brookes Nigel Groome PhD students and PhD students from the Doctoral Training Program.

Research

I am a plant cell biologist and protein biochemist at Oxford Brookes University with expertise in the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER), membrane proteins and auxin biosynthesis using biochemical techniques as well as high-resolution live cell imaging.

Over the last 15 years I have developed a research pathway in auxin biosynthesis going back to my degree and PhD work at the Technical University of Munich where I studied the nitrilase pathway in maize auxin biosynthesis and maize tryptophan synthase complex.

A short-term position at Oxford Brookes just after my PhD allowed me to expand my expertise to ER and Golgi as well as acquiring skills in live cell imaging.

I further investigated membrane proteins and the targeting of tail-anchored proteins at Sheffield Hallam University. Here I pursued my scientific interests in subcellular protein localisation, bioinformatics, and mathematical modelling. My additional independent research on ER localisation and splicing in auxin biosynthesis showed for the first time ER-localisation for an auxin biosynthetic protein. Based on this work I won a fellowship from the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies to investigate the subcellular localisation of maize auxin biosynthesis at Dankook University in Seoul which lead to a publication that showed for the first time that both steps of the TAA/YUC pathway of auxin biosynthesis can be ER-localised. I am committed to interdisciplinary research, and an example of the successes gained from this approach is the project with Prof A Nabok (Engineering Sheffield Hallam University) using total internal reflection ellipsometry to quantify protein-membrane interactions on native plant membranes and human cell lines.

I took up a position at Oxford Brookes University in 2012 investigating the role of reticulon proteins in ER tubulation and viral trafficking in order to develop my international reputation in ER research and advanced imaging. I published the first report of plant ER reticulon protein interactors by Co-IP and FRET-FLIM. Through this I established important collaborative links with physicists at the STFC Lasers for Science Facility at the Harwell Campus.

As I have a strong interest in translational research I wrote and lead a Leverhulme research grant (“pMMO in plants”) in collaboration with Prof Tom Smith from Sheffield Hallam University. Here I aim to engineer plants to convert methane into carbon dioxide. Due to my interest in linking academia and industry I am part of the Faculty Innovation Team at Oxford Brookes and Innovation Forum Oxford as an Oxford Brookes representative. I am also a member of various BBSRC Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy.

Research grants and awards

  • Program access grant to the STFC Harwell Laser Facility ‘The Plant Cell Initiative: Protein interactions in the higher plant secretory pathway’ 2017-2021 (approximate value of £200K).
  • International Collaborative Research and Travel Awards (2019) £3.8K with Prof S Botchway (CLF, Harwell) and Prof K Müller-Nedebock, Department of Physics, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
  • Oxford Brookes University Research Excellence Awards 2020-21 with Dr V Bolanos-Garcia £18.5K.
  • Grant from BBRSC Community Resource for Wheat and Rice Transformation to transform rice with pMMO genes.
  • Leverhulme Trust ‘pMMO in plants for methane detoxification and as a carbon negative biofuel’ with Dr D Pearce (Brookes) and Prof T Smith (Sheffield Hallam University) (value £113K, duration December 2015 to November 2017).
  • STFC Harwell facilities access grant ‘Investigating structure formation in the plant ER with light sheet fluorescence microscopy’ (value ~ £10K, 2019).
  • STFC Harwell facilities direct access grant ‘Fast 3D imaging and combined aberration correction using adaptive lenses for ER single particle tracking’ (value ~ £20K, duration July to December 2019); in collaboration with Dr S Bonora, University of Padova, Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies, Italy.
  • MRes project for 2019/2020 funded by Porton Biopharma Ltd (value £38K).
  • Santander travel fellowship for May 2018 £1808.
  • STFC Harwell facilities direct access grant ‘Single molecule tracking on the plant endoplasmic reticulum’ (value approximately £20K, 2017).
  • Fellowship from the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies ‘Subcellular localisation of auxin biosynthesis in maize’ (value £10.4K for travel, subsidence and laboratory consumables, duration March to June 2013).
  • EPSRC Engineering for life Feasibility Study Grant with Prof A Nabok, Dr D Smith and Dr B Abell (EP/1016473/1) ‘Visualising the interaction of proteins in biological membranes for diagnosis of diseases’ (£59,940, 2011).
  • EPSRC Engineering for life pump prime funding with Prof A Nabok and Dr B Abell (EP/H00275/1) (£13,630, 2010).

Research projects

My current research projects include:

  • Linking structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum
  • The endoplasmic reticulum as a hub for metabolic processes such as  auxin biosynthesis
  • Analysing single particle movement on the plant endoplasmic reticulum
  • ER-Golgi connections
  • pMMO for methane detoxification and as a carbon-negative biofuel
  • Translating the link between ER structure and function into algal systems with industry partners 
  • Establishing plant systems for high-value product production in collboration with industry

Groups

Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is led by another Institution

  • 21ENGBIO_pMMO in plants for methane detoxification and as a carbon negative biofuel (10/01/2022 - 09/01/2023), funded by: Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), funding amount received by Brookes: £99,629
  • How to build a cell wall?:Enzyme complexes involved in plant cell wall biosynthesis (01/01/2022 - 31/12/2024), funded by: Harwell
  • Fast 3D imaging of the plant ER-Golgi interface using adaptive optics (01/01/2022 - 30/06/2022), funded by: UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
  • Affiliation of Chris Hawes studentship to Oxford DTP (01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025), funded by: Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), funding amount received by Brookes: £30,229

Publications

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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Gatsby Plant Science Network mentor for OBU
  • Gatsby plant science summer school cell biology practical demonstrator
  • Associate Editor Frontiers in Plant Sciences “Membranes and Traffic”
  • Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society
  • Member of the Society of Experimental Biology
  • Expert Panel “Cell and Development”  grants, National Science Centre Poland

Conferences

  • 2019 Chris Hawes Memorial Symposium
  • 2019 RMS Botanical Microscopy Conference Oxford
  • 2016 Society of Experimental Botany (SEB) annual conferences, session organiser “The plant ER”

Consultancy

For consultancy in areas of imaging, image analysis, protein production etc please get in touch via email (vkriechbaumer@brookes.ac.uk)