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Professor Maria Hrmova

Telephone +61 8 8313 7160
Position Professor
Fax +61 8 8313 7102
Building Plant Genomics Centre
Floor/Room 2 36
Campus Waite
Org Unit Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG)

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Doctor of Scientiarum (DrSci) in Chemistry, Comenius University, Slovak Republic

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry, Comenius University and Slovak University of Technology, Czecho-Slovakia

Awards & Achievements

Elected Member of the Learned Society of Slovak Academy of Sciences - In 2012 I was elected a member of the Society, which supports the development of science, spreads scientific knowledge, debates the ethical questions of research, declares clear positions on the problems and norms of science and technology, influences the direction of research in Slovak Republic, and honorably represents the Slovak Academy of Sciences. The Learned Society established in 1949 has 112 members and is an equivalent to the Australian Academy of Science.

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory is focused on membrane transporters and transcription factors involved in abiotic stress tolerance of plants. Our interests are also centred on enzymes that participate in formation of plant cell surface structures. Further, we have created artificial membrane environments mimicking native ones using bicelles, liposomes, lipodiscs and nanodiscs, and used them for functional reconstitution of membrane proteins produced through cell-based and cell-free synthesis platforms. The goals of our projects are to address the fundamental questions as to how proteins mediate their biological functions. The new knowledge is expected to serve for designing of engineered proteins that work optimally under a variety of abiotic stress factors.

Research Funding

Our research is financially supported by the DP120100900 and LP120100201 grants from the Australian Research Council, by the Grains Research & Development Corporation, by the South Australian Government, by the Waite Research Institute of the University of Adelaide and by the Australian Synchrotron Research Program that is supported by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Major National Research Facilities Program.


Li M, Lopato S, Hrmova M, Pickering M, Shirley N, Koltunow AM, Langridge P (2014) Expression patterns and protein structure of a lipid transfer protein END1 from Arabidopsis. Planta 240, 1319-1334.

Lopato S, Borisjuk N, Langridge P, Hrmova M (2014) Endosperm transfer cell-specific genes and proteins: structure, function and applications in biotechnology. Frontiers in Plant Science 5, article 64, 1-14.

Borisjuk N, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2014) Transcriptional regulation of cuticle biosynthesis. Biotechnology Advances 32, 526-540.

Hrmova M, Lopato S (2014) Enhancing abiotic stress tolerance in plants by modulating properties of stress responsive transcription factors. In: Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources (Tuberosa R, Graner A, Frison E, eds.), Springer Netherlands, 515 pp, Volume 2, Part II: Crop productivity, food security and nutritional quality, pp 291-316. Invited review.

Tankrathok A,  Luang S,  Robinson R,  Kimura A, Rovira C, Hrmova M,  Ketudat Cairns J (2013) Structural analysis and insights into glycon specificity of the rice GH1 Os7BGlu26 β-d-mannosidase. Acta Crystallographica Section D69, 2124-2135.

Chew W, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2013) Role of HD-Zip IV transcription factors in plant development and plant protection from deleterious environmental factors. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14, 8122-8147.

Waters S, Gilliham M, Hrmova M (2013) Plant high affinity potassium (HKT) transporters involved in salinity tolerance: structural insights to probe differences in ion selectivity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14, 7660-7680.

Eini O, Yang N, Pyvovarenko T, Pillman K, Bazanova N, Tikhomirov N, Eliby S, Shirley N, Sivasankar S, Tingey S, Langridge P, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2013) Complex regulation by Apetala2 domain-containing transcription factors revealed through analysis of the stress-responsive TdCor410b promoter from durum wheat. PLoS ONE 8, e58713.

Shadiac N, Nagarajan Y, Waters S, Hrmova M (2013) The close allies in membrane protein research: cell-free synthesis and nanotechnology. Molecular Membrane Biology 30, 229-245.

Periasamy A, Shadiac N, Amalraj A, Garajová S, Nagarajan Y, Waters S, Mertens HD, Hrmova M (2013) Cell-free protein synthesis of membrane (1,3)-β-d-glucan (curdlan) synthase: co-translational insertion in liposomes and reconstitution in nanodiscs. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1828, 743-757.

Cotsaftis O, Plett D, Shirley N, Tester M, Hrmova M (2012) A two-staged model of Na+ exclusion in rice explained by 3D modeling of HKT transporters and alternative splicing. PLoS ONE 7, e39865.

Fernandez i Marti A, Wirthensohn M, Alonso J, Socias i Company R, Hrmova M (2012) Molecular modelling of S-RNases involved in almond self-incompatibility. Frontiers in Crop Science and Horticulture 3, 1-4.

Kovalchuk N, Smith J, Bazanova N, Pyvovarenko T, Singh R, Shirley N, Ismagul A, Johnson A, Milligan AS, Hrmova M, Langridge P, Lopato S (2012) Characterization of the wheat gene encoding a grain-specific lipid transfer protein TdPR61, and promoter activity in wheat, barley and rice. Journal of Experimental Botany 63, 2025-2040. Feature article with a front cover photograph.  

Harris J, Hrmova M, Lopato S, Langridge P (2011) Modulation of plant growth by HD-Zip class I and II transcription factors in response to environmental stimuli. New Phytologist 190, 823-837. Tansley review.

Rivandi J, Miyazaki J, Hrmova M, Pallotta M, Tester M, Collins NC (2011) A SOS3 homologue maps to HvNax4, a barley locus controlling an environment-dependent Na+ exclusion trait. Journal of Experimental Botany 62, 1201-1211. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Stone BA, Jacobs AK, Hrmova M, Burton RA, Fincher GB (2011) The biosynthesis of plant cell wall and related polysaccharides by enzymes of the GT2 and GT48 families. In: Plant Polysaccharides, Series: Annual Plant Reviews 41, 109-166. Blackwell Publishing Inc, Danvers, MA, USA (Ulvskov P, ed). Invited review.

Drew DP, Hrmova M, Lunde C, Jacobs A, Tester M, Fincher GB (2011) Structural and functional analyses of PpENA1 provide insights into cation binding by type IID P-type ATPases in lower plants and fungi. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1808, 1483-1492.

Kaiser BN, Hrmova M (2010) A glimpse at regulation of nitrogen homeostasis. Structure 18, 1395-1397. Invited commentary.

Kuntothom T, Raab M, Tvaroška I, Fort S, Pengthaisong S, Cañada FJ, Calle L, Jiménez-Barbero J, Ketudat Cairns JR, Hrmova M (2010) Binding of β-d-glucosides and β-d-mannosides by rice and barley β-d-glycosidases with distinct substrate specificities. Biochemistry (USA) 49, 8779-8793.

Luang S, Ketudat Cairns JR, Streltsov VA, Hrmova M (2010) Crystallisation of wild-type and variant forms of a recombinant β-d-glucan glucohydrolase from barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) by macroseeding with wild-type native microcrystals and preliminary X-ray analysis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 11, 2759-2769.

Schnurbusch T, Hayes J, Hrmova M, Baumann U, Ramesh SA, Tyerman SD, Langridge P, Sutton T (2010) Boron toxicity tolerance in barley through reduced expression of the multifunctional aquaporin, HvNIP2;1. Plant Physiology 153, 1706-1715.

Kaewthai N, Harvey AJ, Hrmova M, Brumer H, Ezcurra I, Teeri TT, Fincher GB (2010) Recombinant expression of a diversity of barley XTH genes in the yeast Pichia pastoris. Plant Biotechnology 27, 251-258.

Luang S, Hrmova M, Ketudat Cairns JR (2010) High-level expression of barley β-d-glucan exohydrolase HvExoI from a codon-optimized cDNA in Pichia pastoris. Protein Expression and Purification 73, 90-98.

Kosik O, Auburn RP, Stratilova E, Garajova S, Hrmova M, Farkas V (2010) Polysaccharide micro-arrays for screening of transglycosylase activities in plant extracts. Glycoconjugate Journal 27, 79-87.

Hanlin RL, Hrmova M, Harbertson JF, Downey MO (2010) Condensed tannin and grape cell wall interactions and impact on tannin extractability into wine - a review. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research 16, 173-188. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Kovalchuk N, Li M, Wittek F, Reid N, Shirley N, Ismagul A, Eliby S, Johnson A, Milligan AS, Hrmova M, Langridge P, Lopato S (2010) Defensin promoters as tools for engineering of wheat and rice grain protection during periods of high vulnerability to pathogens. Plant Biotechnology Journal 8, 47-64. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Vaaje-Kolstad G, Farkas V, Fincher GB, Hrmova M (2010) Barley xyloglucan xyloglucosyl transferases bind xyloglucan-derived oligosaccharides in their acceptor binding regions in multiple conformational states. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 496, 61-68.

Vaaje-Kolstad G, Farkaš V, Hrmova M, Fincher GB (2010) Xyloglucan xyloglucosyl transferases from barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) bind oligomeric and polymeric xyloglucan molecules in their acceptor binding sites. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects 1800, 674-684.

Zhang Q, Shirley NJ, Burton RA, Lahnstein J, Hrmova M, Fincher GB (2010) The genetics, transcriptional profiles and catalytic properties of UDP-α-d-xylose 4-epimerases from barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). Plant Physiology 153, 555-568.

Hrmova M, Stone BA, Fincher GB (2010) High-yield production, refolding and molecular modelling of the catalytic module of (1,3)-β-d-glucan (curdlan) synthase from Agrobacterium sp. Glycoconjugate Journal 27, 461-476.

Kuntothom T, Luang S, Fincher GB, Opassiri R, Hrmova M, Ketudat Cairns JR (2009)  Rice family GH1 glycoside hydrolases with β-d-glucosidase and β-d-mannosidase activities. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics 491, 85-95.

Kovalchuk N, Smith J, Pallotta M, Singh R, Ismagul A, Eliby S, Basanova N, Milligan AS, Hrmova M, Langridge P, Lopato S (2009) Characterization of a wheat endosperm transfer cell specific protein TaPR60. Plant Molecular Biology 71, 81-98. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Pettolino F, Sasaki I, Turbic A, Wilson S, Bacic A, Hrmova M, Fincher GB (2009) Hyphal cell walls from the plant pathogen Rhynchosporium secalis contain (1,3;1,6)-d-glucans, galacto- and rhamnomannans, (1,3;1,4)-β-d-glucans and chitin. FEBS Journal 276, 4122-41133. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Montel E, Hrmova M, Fincher GB, Driguez H, Cottaz S (2009) A chemoenzymatic route to conjugatable β-(1,3)-glucan oligosaccharides. Australian Journal of Chemistry 62, 575-584.

Hrmova M, Farkas V, Harvey AJ, Lahnstein J, Wischmann B, Kaewthai N, Ezcurra I, Teeri TT, Fincher GB (2009) Substrate specificity and catalytic mechanism of a xyloglucan xyloglucosyl transferase HvXET6 from barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). FEBS Journal 276, 437-456.  

Hrmova M, Fincher GB (2009) Plant and microbial enzymes involved in the depolymerisation of (1,3)-β-d-glucans and related polysaccharides. In: Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biology of (1,3)-β-d-Glucans and Related Polysaccharides, Academic Press, Elsevier Inc, San Diego, USA, 677 pp, 16 color plates (Bacic T, Fincher GB, Stone BA, eds), pp 119-170. Invited review. With front cover photograph.

Hrmova M, Fincher GB (2009) Functional genomics and structural biology in the definition of gene function. In: Plant Genomics, Humana Press Inc, Totowa, USA (Somers D, Langridge P, Gustafson P, eds). Methods in Molecular Biology 513, 199-227. Invited review.

Farrokhi N, Hrmova M, Burton RA, Fincher GB (2009) Heterologous and cell free expression systems. In: Plant Genomics, Humana Press Inc, Totowa, USA (Somers D, Langridge P, Gustafson P, eds). Methods in Molecular Biology 513, 175-198. Invited review.

Rodrigues JCM, Tucker MR, Johnson SD, Hrmova M, Koltunow AGM (2008) Sexual and apomictic (asexual) seed formation in Hieracium requires the plant Polycomb-group gene fertilization independent endosperm (FIE). Plant Cell 20, 2372-2386. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Hrmova M, Farkas V, Lahnstein J, Fincher GB (2007) A barley xyloglucan xyloglucosyl transferase covalently links xyloglucan, cellulosic substrates and (1,3;1,4)-β-d-glucans. Journal of Biological Chemistry 282, 12951-12962.

Burton RA, Wilson SM, Hrmova M, Harvey AJ, Shirley NJ, Stone BA, Newbigin EJ, Medhurst A, Bacic A, Fincher GB (2006) Cellulose synthase-like CslF genes mediate the synthesis of cell wall (1,3;1,4)-β-d-glucans. Science 311, 1940-1942.

Hrmova M, Streltsov VA, Smith BJ, Vasella A, Varghese JN, Fincher, GB (2005) Structural rationale for low nanomolar binding of transition state mimics to a family GH3 β-d-glucan glucohydrolase from barley. Biochemistry (USA) 44, 16529-16539.

Hrmova M, De Gori R, Smith BJ, Vasella A, Varghese JN, Fincher GB (2004) Three-dimensional structure of the barley β-d-glucan glucohydrolase in complex with a transition-state mimic. Journal of Biological Chemistry 279, 4970-4980.

Lee RC, Hrmova M, Burton RA, Lahnstein J, Fincher GB (2003) An α-l-arabinofuranosidase and a β-d-xylosidase from barley: purification, characterization and primary structures. Journal of Biological Chemistry 278, 5377-5387.

Hrmova M, Imai T, Rutten SJ, Fairweather JK, Pelosi L, Bulone V, Driguez H, Fincher GB (2002) Barley (1,3)-β-d-glucan endohydrolase mutants synthesise crystalline (1,3)-β-d-glucans. Journal of Biological Chemistry 277, 30102-30111.

Hrmova M, De Gori R, Smith BJ, Fairweather JK, Driguez H, Varghese JN, Fincher GB (2002) Structural basis for broad substrate specificity in higher plant β-d-glucan glucohydrolases. The Plant Cell 14, 1033-1052. Feature article with a front cover photograph.

Hrmova M, Varghese JN, DeGori R, Smith BJ, Driguez H, Fincher GB (2001) Catalytic mechanisms and reaction intermediates along the hydrolytic pathway of plant β-d-glucan glucohydrolase. Structure 9, 1005-1016.

Varghese JN, Hrmova M, Fincher GB (1999) Three-dimensional structure of a barley β-d-glucan exohydrolase, a family 3 glycosyl hydrolase. Structure 7, 179-190.

Hrmova M, MacGregor EA, Biely P, Stewart RS, Fincher GB (1998) Substrate binding and catalytic mechanism of a barley β-d-glucosidase/(1,4)-β-d-glucan exohydrolase. Journal of Biological Chemistry 273, 11134-11143.

Hrmova M, Harvey AJ, Wang J, Shirley NJ, Jones GP, Høj PB, Fincher GB (1996) Barley β-d-glucan exohydrolases with β-d-glucosidase activity. Purification and determination of primary structure from a cDNA clone. Journal of Biological Chemistry 271, 5277-5286.

Hrmova M, Garrett TPJ, Fincher GB (1995) Subsite affinities and disposition of catalytic amino acids in the substrate-binding region of barley 1,3-d-β-glucanases. Journal of Biological Chemistry 270, 14556-14563.

Professional Interests

TRANSPORTERS, TRANSCRIPTION FACTORS and OTHER PROTEINS - We focus on structural and functional analyses of plant borate and HKT Na+/K+ transporters, aquaporins, and transcription factors, such as bZIP, HDZip and DREB. Our work has appeared on the front covers of Plant Molecular Biology, Plant Biotechnology Journal and Journal of Experimental Botany. We have constructed three-dimensional (3D) models of these proteins and reconciled their structures with function.


ENZYMES - Our work is focused on hydrolytic enzymes to define in atomic details their catalytic mechanisms, thermodynamic and structural determinants of substrate recognition, and natures of transition states that take part during a hydrolytic cycle. We have crystallised a plant exohydrolase enzyme and solved its 3D structure, which represents the first atomic structure of this type of hydrolases. We have solved more than forty structures of an exohydrolase in complex with mechanism-based inhibitors, substrate analogues and transition-state mimics. We have investigated the structural basis of the product and substrate trajectory in the active site of the exohydrolase using X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. We have used molecular dynamics and quantum mechanical simulations to elucidate kinetic aspects of catalysis and substrate specificity of enzymes.

ALLIANCE OF CELL-FREE SYNTHESIS AND NANOTECHNOLOGY - We have constructed the cDNA fusions of large α-helical membrane proteins and synthesised these proteins using a wheat germ-based cell-free system with a range of surfactants, lipids, nanoparticles and other membrane mimetics. We have created artificial membrane environments mimicking the native ones using bicelles, liposomes and nanodiscs. We have reconstituted membrane proteins in these environments, and imaged them through atomic force microscopy and small angle X-ray scattering using synchrotron radiation.


Entry last updated: Thursday, 15 Jan 2015

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