Photo of Owen Rowland

Owen Rowland

Chair, Associate Professor

Degrees:B.Sc. (Alberta), Ph.D. (Toronto)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 4213
Office:Office: 205 Nesbitt Building
Lab: 215 Nesbitt Building
Website:Visit my lab website


Plants are our greatest source of renewable resources, providing food, medicines, industrial products, and biofuels. Agriculture around the world will face many challenges over the coming decades, including those imposed by changes in global climate patterns. In this context, a detailed understanding of plant adaptations that protect them against environmental stresses, such as drought, salt stress and pathogen attack, is critical for generating crop varieties that are more stress resistant.

My NSERC-funded research program is primarily aimed at understanding the biosynthesis and function of protective plant surface barriers that are composed of polymerized lipids and associated waxes. These chemically-related barriers are: (1) cuticle coating the aerial surfaces of plants, and (2) suberin found in the cells walls of various external and internal tissue layers including roots. The coordinated activities of a large number of enzymes are required to produce the variety of fatty acid derivatives that form these surface lipid matrices. Most of our studies use Arabidopsis thaliana, as mutants affecting the production of these barriers are relatively easy to obtain with this model plant. We use a combination of molecular biology, genetic, biochemical, cell biology and genomic approaches to characterize the enzymes, regulators and transporters involved in surface lipid metabolism. Our group is also interested in other specialized metabolic pathways, such as those generating products used in medical applications.

We then translate the fundamental knowledge gained from our Arabidopsis research to crop plants, such as Brassica napus (canola) or the emerging oilseed crop Camelina sativa. Our ultimate aim is to provide key information and tools for the development of stress-tolerant plants. In addition, plant surface lipids are composed of renewable hydrocarbons that are chemically suitable for replacement of petroleum products as sources of energy and chemical feedstocks. Fundamental knowledge of plant surface lipid and seed oil biosynthesis at the molecular level is critical for harnessing this renewable chemical resource to its full potential. For example, we use metabolic engineering to enhance product production in plants or genetically engineer microbes, such as yeast, to alternatively produce high-value natural products.

Selected Publications

Vishwanath S.J., Delude C., Domergue F. and Rowland O. (2015) Suberin: biosynthesis, regulation, and polymer assembly of a protective extracellular barrier. Plant Cell Reports 34: 573-586

Kosma D.K., Murmu J., Razeq F.M., Santos P., Bourgault R., Molina I. and Rowland O. (2014). AtMYB41 activates ectopic suberin synthesis and assembly in multiple plant species and cell types. The Plant Journal 80: 216-229

Razeq F.M, Kosma D.K., Rowland O. and Molina I. (2014). Extracellular lipids of Camelina sativa: Characterization of chloroform-extractable waxes from aerial and subterranean surfaces. Phytochemistry 106: 188-196

Pulsifer I.P., Lowe C., Narayaran S.A., Busuttil A.S., Vishwanath S.J., Domergue F. and Rowland O. (2014). ACYL-LIPID THIOESTERASE1-4 from Arabidopsis thaliana form a novel family of fatty acyl-acyl carrier protein thioesterases with divergent expression patterns and substrate specificities. Plant Molecular Biology 84: 549-563

Vishwanath S.J., Kosma D.K., Pulsifer I.P., Scandola S., Pascal S., Joubès J., Dittrich-Domergue F., Lessire R., Rowland O. and Domergue F. (2013). Suberin-associated fatty alcohols in Arabidopsis thaliana: distributions in roots and contributions to seed coat barrier properties. Plant Physiology 163: 1118-1132

Chacón M.G., Fournier A.E., Tran F., Dittrich-Domergue F., Pulsifer I.P., Domergue F. and Rowland O. (2013). Identification of amino acids conferring chain-length substrate specificities on fatty alcohol-forming reductases FAR5 and FAR8 from Arabidopsis thaliana. Journal of Biological Chemistry 288: 30345-30355

Rowland O. and Domergue F. (2012). Plant fatty acyl reductases: enzymes generating fatty alcohols for protective layers with potential for industrial applications. Plant Science 193-194: 28-38

Pulsifer I.P., Kluge S. and Rowland O. (2012). Arabidopsis LONG-CHAIN ACYL-COA SYNTHETASE 1 (LACS1), LACS2, and LACS3 facilitate fatty acid uptake in yeast. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 51: 31-39