Nate Barlow

Project: New technologies for modelling, monitoring and predicting agrochemical transport in plants

The biological activity of an agrochemical depends on multiple interactions between chemistry and biology. The most direct interaction is between the agrochemical and its target protein. However, another important consideration is the interaction of an agrochemical with cellular membranes, as numerous membranes from different tissue and even species types lie between an applied agrochemical and its target site. Each membrane potentially acts as a barrier to transport or a sink for storing the agrochemical thereby preventing it from reaching its intended target. Although the importance of membranes has been recognised in drug discovery, their impact in rational agrochemical design has been less well studied.

This project is measuring the ability of agrochemicals to cross artificial membranes constructed to resemble those found in agriculturally relevant species. This involves developing new microfluidic technologies for manufacturing inter-connected 2-D and 3-D membranes as well as exploiting cutting edge imaging tools to measure agrochemical transport through these barriers. This will lead to general or class-specific design principles for agrochemical membrane translocation with these results directly feeding into industrial research programmes. This project will also examine the role of membrane-bound proteins in the active transport of chemicals.