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Professor Mark Tester

Biography/ Background

Please note that, from 15 February 2013, Mark will be moving to

Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering

4700 King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Thuwal 23955-6900

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


His ACPFG email will remain active for a few more months, and he can also be contacted on

Further information will appear on the KAUST website in due course.



Mark Tester is Professor of Plant Physiology in the School of Agriculture, Food & Wine, University of Adelaide, the Director of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility and Research Director at the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics Pty Ltd. Professor Tester also leads a large academic research group (>$10m in the past 7 years) and is a Director of Australian Grains Technology. He also serves on editorial boards of 11 international journals and referees for many more, including Nature and Science.

The Australian Plant Phenomics Facility is a $55m organisation established to develop and provide cutting-edge phenotyping facilities to support plant science nationally. It is also a crucial resource for the expansion of the activities of the ACPFG. Professor Tester’s role has been to direct this project from its conception, to secure funding to establish the business and to manage the construction of the innovative 4,500 m2 building. He now leads the strategic operation of this national collaborative facility. A commentary on this initiative appeared in Science (Finkel, 2009: Science 325, 380-381).

The immediate aim of Professor Tester’s research programme is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that enable certain plants to thrive in sub-optimal soil conditions, such as those of high salinity, low water or low nutrients. The ultimate applied aim is to modify crop plants in order to increase productivity on such soils, with consequent improvement of yield in both developed and developing countries. The ultimate intellectual aim is to understand the co-ordination of whole plant function through processes occurring at the level of single cells, particularly through processes of long-distance communication within plants. This aim is being addressed by combining genetic and genomic approaches with a broad-based understanding of plant physiology. Primary funding is provided by the Australian Research Council and the Grains Research Development Corporation, but substantial funding from private companies has also been obtained.

A particular strength of Professor Tester’s research programme is the integration of cell biology with whole plant physiology. The development and use of tools for the study and manipulation of specific cell types is unique in the field of salinity tolerance, and even in the broader areas of plant nutrition and ion transport. Internationally, his research group is one of the leading laboratories on salinity research. His work is cited highly (over 7,000 citations, H-index of 46), and two invited reviews for Annual Reviews of Plant Biology within 6 years can also be seen as indicative of international research leadership.




1988                       PhD Plant Sciences - University of Cambridge

1984                       BSc (Hons) Plant Sciences 1st Class - University of Adelaide





2009 –                   Professor of Plant Physiology, University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics

2004 – 2008         Research Professor, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow

2001 – 2003         BBSRC Research Development Fellow

2000 – 2003         Senior Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

1994 – 2003         Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge

1993 – 2000         Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

1990 – 1992         Lecturer, Department of Botany, University of Adelaide

1988 – 1990         Junior Research Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge 


B.Sc.(Hons), First Class, Adelaide
Ph.D., Cambridge

Teaching Interests

In Cambridge I contributed to undergraduate teaching in all three years of the Natural Sciences Tripos. The quantity and breadth of my teaching has certainly been significant. The quality of my teaching is harder to quantify. It has been evaluated primarily by reviews of student questionnaires at the end of each term, facilitated by Consultative Committee meetings each term for each subject. Students have consistently rated all aspects of my teaching highly. For example, in my first year lectures to ~350 students on cell membranes, in every year I obtained the highest marks of all the lecturers delivering the course. Whilst using student feedback, it may also be useful to quote from a final year consultative committee meeting minutes: "The students considered that in terms of what is helpful to them, nobody does it better than Dr Tester. He provides a great deal of information in lectures, but the references are reasonable. His lectures were found to be accessible, and they provided a useful overlap with ecology."

I have also been involved in the development of courses. My input to the development of the new first year biology courses was central, although change of some sort was going to happen, it was the model for change proposed by me that was the one finally accepted.

On a more pedagogical note, I actively try to tailor my teaching style to accommodate the level of the students in the course. My 1st year lectures are deliberately more populist, with the aim of capturing the students' attention, enabling me then to teach in a memorable way. Teaching to more advanced years employs fewer 'gimmicks' and becomes a more personal exchange. With this change in style comes a change in my handouts, from complete in 1st year, to the provision of only subheadings, graphics, and references in 3rd year. However, I release complete lecture notes on the web after each lecture.

Cambridge is a collegiate University, and I feel it is important to the running of the University for lecturers to be engaged in the College system. As such, I was involved in Churchill College for most of my time there as a lecturer. I gave many supervisions, I was the Director of Studies in Biological Sciences, and I was an advanced students' tutor. I was also a member of College Council for two years and chaired the Library Committee for several years.

At the University of Adelaide, although I am currently in a research-only post, I still present 6 lectures to first year undergraduates and give several guest lectures to advanced undergraduates and coursework graduates in a range of subjects. I am also involved in the establishment of a new Masters course in plant biotechnology.

In my own research laboratory, graduate students usually obtain feedback through almost daily encounters in the laboratory, both with me and with the postdoctoral workers in my group. This has been facilitated by the excellent layout of my research area. In both Adelaide and Cambridge, my office has been in the far corner of a large laboratory. Different students have different preferences and requirements for supervisory interaction. I try to be sensitive to these various needs, formalising regular contact with some students, whilst leaving others to interact more regularly with the postdoctoral worker to whom they have been allocated. Weekly lab meetings and fortnightly journal clubs also provide a forum for presentations of work by the students to the whole group, a forum that can provide fertile ground for the development of new strategies.

Overall, I am committed to education and believe that I have gained the knowledge and honed the skills demanded of a high quality teacher. I consider that students are inspired by my teaching and are able to develop their conceptual understanding. Furthermore, there is good evidence that my efforts are appreciated by the students. My teaching has ranged from the molecular to the ecological, reflecting my research interests in elucidating molecular explanations for ecological phenomena. Consequently, I have enjoyed fulfilling an unusually wide array of teaching demands over my past 25 years as an academic.

Research Interests

The aim of my research programme is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that enable certain plants to thrive in sub-optimal soil conditions, such as high salinity or low N availability. The applied aim is to modify crop plants to increase their productivity on such soils; and to increase the mineral content of their seeds. The intellectual aim is to understand mechanisms of long-distance communication within plants through the study of genes which lead to appropriate shoot nutrient levels. Coordinated responses by the whole plant to environmental stimuli are essential to allow plants to respond appropriately to changes in their environment, yet our understanding at the molecular and cellular levels of high level coordination processes remains minimal.

The current focus is on salinity tolerance, so the main solute being studied is Na+, with attention also being paid to other solutes, such as K+, Cl- and boric acid. More detailed information can be found on my websites.

Three complementary technical approaches are being taken to study control of nutrient accumulation:

1.      Forward genetics, through discovering and exploiting naturally occurring variation in lines, particularly from the regions in which wheat and barley originated.
2.      Reverse genetics, through the identification of candidate genes from genomics and related approaches and measuring effects of altering expression of key genes in crop and model plants.
3.      Complementing both the above approaches is a molecular genetic approach, where novel variation in shoot solute accumulation is generated by manipulation of random gene expression in specific cell types hypothesized to be important in controlling shoot solute accumulation.

Most research in my laboratory employs the classic model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, whose small size and sequenced genome pre-disposes it to molecular and genetic studies. However, about five years ago I made a strategic decision to begin using rice, as an important crop in its own right, but also as a powerful model cereal which is not as extensively studied as Arabidopsis. This move was timely, coinciding with advances in transformation and anticipating the genome sequence by over two years. With my move two years ago to Australia, I have been able to apply my experience with Arabidopsis and rice to wheat and barley, exploiting the opportunities provided by the excellent genetic resources available at the ACPFG.

With the forward genetic strategy, natural variation in shoot Na+ accumulation is being discovered and exploited for both direct introgression into commercial lines and gene discovery. In particular, high throughput assays for reliably measuring shoot Na+ accumulation in cereals have been developed and are now being used to screen exotic germplasm for novel variation in shoot Na+ accumulation. Out of over 600 accessions already screened, some lines with extraordinarily low Na+ have already been revealed in some cereals, most notably the diploid wheat progenitor, Triticum monococcum. This material is now being used to construct mapping populations for, ultimately, positional cloning of the alleles responsible for this variation. This material is also being introgressed directly into commercial germplasm, a traditional breeding process that can be uniquely accelerated at the ACPFG by exploiting the unique combination in the Centre of molecular markers and the high throughput physiological-based screen. The use of established mapping populations of wheat and barley has also revealed genetic loci, whose molecular identities are also being established. Needless to say, we are also taking this forward genetic approach in Arabidopsis, and have identified alleles responsible for a large percentage of the variation in shoot Na+ accumulation. In the second approach, several candidate genes have been identified from the literature (HKT, AVP, SOS1, NHX, ENA, GLR) and are being expressed and silenced constitutively, inducibly and in specific cell types. The effects on shoot accumulation of Na+ (and other solutes) are being steadily revealed, with preliminary results showing exciting possibilities (e.g. PpENA1 overexpression appears to lower shoot Na+ in some lines). This work will be continued, focusing on genes and cell types that show the most promise, to critically assess the utility of this approach for future transgenic applications. Additionally, searches for further candidate genes will remain ongoing, using both bioinformatics approaches and also a cell type-specific transcriptomics project (in collaboration with Ken Birnbaum, NYU), using fluorescently-activated cell sorting, laser capture microdissection and RNA amplification to profile transcription in single cell types. Using Affymetrix microarrays enables quantitative comparison of expression profiles in samples obtained from different cell types in plants grown in different conditions, which provides information on the modulation of gene expression in specific cell types in response to stress. This should indicate genes involved in specific, adaptive responses to stress, unlike current studies of gene responses that use whole tissue samples. Given the importance of cell-specific processes in stress responses, these latter analyses are more likely to reveal genes involved in damage response, rather than damage limitation. Genes that limit damage will clearly be of greater interest in mis-expression studies. The third approach combines forward and reverse genetic strategies, with the activation of random genes in specific cell types that are likely to be important in controlling shoot solute accumulation. The reason for this approach comes from the following thinking. For shoot Na+ accumulation to be minimized, Na+ would need to be pumped out of cells in the outer part of the root, but into cells in the inner part of the root, adjacent to the xylem (to maintain low Na+ in the xylem and thus low delivery to the shoot). The novel approach being employed in my research is the study and manipulation of ion transport in specific cell types within the plant, particularly in the root. The importance of this has been recently demonstrated, where constitutive over-expression of the gene encoding the Na+ influx transporter, AtHKT1, increased shoot Na+, whereas stelar-specific expression of this gene had the opposite effect, reducing shoot Na+. This recent result supports clearly the hypothesized importance of cell-specific expression in shoot ion accumulation, and clearly requires building upon for some time to come.

For the past few years, we have been developing and using GAL4/GFPP enhancer trap lines in Arabidopsis and rice to generate transgenic plants with altered levels of expression of Na+ transporters (and other genes) in specific cell types. The more genomic-scale approach has been recently trialed in my laboratory, with the generation of 1100 lines with random gene activation specifically in the epidermis and cortex and the screening of mutants for abnormal accumulation of solutes in the shoot using ICP-MS. So far, 11 mutants have been confirmed, including five lines with low shoot Na+. I confidently expect this material will provide many opportunities for years to come. This programme has the added value of providing material of interest to human nutritionists, as plants with increased accumulation of valuable elements such as Fe, I and Zn will be identified. Deficiencies in these elements generate some of the most significant health problems globally. This will give me the chance to access new funding sources, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, as well as providing the chance to elucidate fundamental molecular principles underlying the control of nutrient accumulation in higher plants. The above programme, whilst developed by me over the past decade or more, is currently embedded in the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, an independent company located on the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide. The ACPFGâTMs remit is to develop cereal varieties with increased tolerance to abiotic stresses such as salinity and drought (see My research program fits ideally into this remit, and a mutually beneficial relationship between ACPFG and my own programme has been established. Besides substantial support from the ACPFG and the University of Adelaide, work in Australia is funded primarily by the Australian Research Council, but significant support has also been obtained from the industrial organisation the Grains Research & Development Corporation. In addition, I was centrally involved in the recent substantial agreement between DuPont and ACPFG, which has provided the opportunity to establish a line of research on nitrogen use efficiency, the intellectual and technical basis for which is similar to the work described above on salinity.

Such work is not done alone, and, in addition to the collaborative network of some 100 researchers in the ACPFG, a number of significant external collaborations have been established. At the University of Adelaide, projects are underway with Professor Steve Tyerman, Dr. Brent Kaiser, Professor Roger Leigh and Dr. Matt Gilliham. In addition, a collaborative project on salinity tolerance in wheat has been commenced with Dr. Rana Munns (CSIRO Plant Industry). At the international level, collaborative projects with Emmanuel Guiderdoni (CIRAD, France) on rice transgenesis and Ken Birnbaum (New York University) on single cell type gene profiling have been established.



Berger, B., de Regt, B. and Tester, M. (2013) Applications of high-throughput plant phenotyping to study nutrient use efficiency. Methods in Molecular Biology 953: 277-290

Roy, S.J., Huang, W., Wang, X., Evrard, A., Schmöckel, S., Zafar, Z.U. and Tester, M. (2013) A novel protein kinase involved in Na+ exclusion revealed from positional cloning. Plant Cell & Environment 35: 553-568

Shavrukov, Y., Bovill, J., Afzal, I., Hayes, J., Roy, S., Tester, M. & Collins, N. (2013) V-PPase (HVP10), a candidate gene for HvNax3 controlling sodium exclusion and salinity tolerance in barley: Fine mapping, sequence analysis and gene expression. Planta, DOI 10.1007/s00425-012-1827-3 (accepted 5 Dec 2012)

Hill, C.B., Jha, D., Bacic, A., Tester, M. & Roessner, U. (2013) Characterization of ion contents and metabolic responses to salt stress of different Arabidopsis AtHKT1;1 genotypes and their parental strains. Molecular Plant, in press (accepted 2 Nov 2012)

Tester, M. (2013) Genetics of abiotic stress tolerance and resistance. In: Henry, R., ed. Agricultural Genetics, in press (Henry Stewart Talks, London)

Garnett, T., Conn, V., Plett, D., Conn, S., Zanghellini, J., Mackenzie, N., Enju, A., Francis, K., Holtham, L., Roessner, U., Bacic, A., Shirley, N., Rafalski, A., Dhugga, K., Tester, M & Kaiser, B. (2013) Characterisation of the NO3- transport system through the lifecycle of the dwarf maize Gaspe flint. New Phytologist, in press (accepted 6 Dec 2012)

Brien, C.J., Berger, B., Rabie, H. & Tester, M. (2013) Accounting for variation in designing greenhouse experiments with special reference to greenhouses containing plants on conveyor systems. Plant Methods 9: 5 doi:10.1186/1746-4811-9-5



Wang, W.-H, Köhler, B., Cao, F.-Q., Liu, G.-W., Gong, Y.-Y., Sheng, S., Song, Q.-C, Cheng, X.-Y., Garnett, T., Okamoto, M., Qin, R., Mueller-Roeber, B., Tester, M., & Liu. L.-H. (2012) Rice DUR3 mediates high-affinity urea transport and plays an effective role in improvement of urea acquisition and utilization when expressed in Arabidopsis. New Phytologist 193: 432-444

Bennett, D., Izanloo, A., Edwards, J., Kuchel, H., Chalmers K., Tester M., Reynolds M., Schnurbusch T. & Langridge, P. (2012) Identification of novel quantitative trait loci for days to ear emergence and flag leaf glaucousness in a bread wheat (Triticum aestivum L) population adapted to southern Australian conditions. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 124: 697–711

Tracy, S.R., Black, C.R., Roberts, J.A., McNeill, A., Davidson, R., Tester, M., Samec, M., Korošak, D. & Mooney, S.J. (2012) Quantifying the effect of soil compaction on three varieties of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) using x-ray micro computed tomography (CT). Plant & Soil 353: 195–208

Munns, R., James, R.A., Xu B., Athman, A., Jordans, C., Conn, S.J., Byrt, C.S., Hare, R.A., Tyerman, S.D., Tester, M., Plett, D. & Gilliham, M. (2012) Grain yield of modern wheat on saline soils is improved by ancestral HKT gene. Nature Biotechnology 30: 360–364

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. PLoS ONE 7: e39865

Evrard, A., Bargmann, B., Bastiaan O.R., Birnbaum, K., Tester, M., Baumann, U. & Johnson, A.A.T. (2012) Fluorescence-activated cell sorting for analysis of cell type-specific responses to salinity stress in Arabidopsis and rice. Methods in Molecular Biology 913: 265-276

Berger, B., de Regt, B. and Tester, M. (2012) Trait dissection of salinity tolerance with plant phenomics. Methods in Molecular Biology 913: 399-413

Berger, B., de Regt, B. and Tester, M. (2012) High-throughput phenotyping of plant shoots. Methods in Molecular Biology 918: 9-20

Mullen J, Tester M, Goddard, M, Goss K, Carberry, P, Keating, B, and Bellotti W, (2012) Assessing the opportunities for achieving future productivity growth in Australian agriculture. Australian Farm Institute, Sydney, ISBN 978-1-921808-23-4. 82 pp.

Roy, S.J, Tester, M., Gaxiola, R. A. and Flowers, T. J. (2012) Plants of saline environments. McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology

Roy, S.J. and Tester, M. (2012) Increasing salinity tolerance of crops. In: Meyers, R.A., ed. Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology (Springer)






Rivandi J, Miyazaki J, Hrmova M, Pallotta M, Tester M, Collins NC (2011) A SOS3 homologue maps to HvNax4, a barley locus controlling an environmentally-sensitive Na+ exclusion trait. Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 201–216 [with cover image]

Cotsaftis, O., Plett, D., Johnson, A.A.T., Walia, H., Wilson, C., Ismail, A.M., Close, T.J., Tester, M. & Baumann, U. (2011) Root-specific transcript profiling of contrasting rice genotypes in response to salinity stress. Molecular Plant 4: 25–41

Golzarian, M.R., Frick, R.A., Rajendran, K., Berger, B., Roy, S., Tester, M & Lun, D.S. (2011) Accurate inference of shoot biomass from high-throughput images of cereal plants. Plant Methods 7: 2 (11 pp)

Shavrukov, Y., Shamaya, N., Baho, M., Edwards, J., Ramsey, C., Nevo, E., Langridge, P. & Tester, M. (2011) Salinity tolerance and Na+ exclusion in wheat: variability, genetics, mapping populations and QTL analysis. Czech Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding 47: S85-S93

Gong, H., Blackmore, D., Clingeleffer, P., Sykes, S., Jha, D., Tester, M. & Walker, R (2011) Contrast in chloride exclusion between two grapevine rootstocks and its variation in their progeny. Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 989-999

Roy, S.J., Tucker, E. & Tester, M. (2011) Genetic analysis of abiotic stress tolerance in crops. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 14: 232-239

Piñeros, M. & Tester, M. (2011) . Journal of Membrane Biology 240: 13–20

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

Cuin, T.A., Bose, J., Stefano, G., Jha, D., Tester, M., Mancuso, S. & Shabala S. (2011) Assessing the role of root plasma membrane and tonoplast Na+/H+ exchangers in salinity tolerance in wheat: in planta quantification methods. Plant Cell & Environment 34: 947-961

Johnson, A.A.T., Kyriacou, B., Callahan, D.L., Carruthers, L., Stangoulis, J., Lombi, E. & Tester, M. (2011) Constitutive overexpression of the OsNAS gene family reveals single-gene strategies for effective iron- and zinc-biofortification of rice endosperm. PLoS ONE 6 (9): e24476

Xue, S.W., Yao, X., Luo, W., Jha, D., Tester, M., Horie, T. & Schroeder, J.I. (2011) AtHKT1;1 mediates Nernstian sodium channel transport properties in Arabidopsis root stelar cells. PLoS ONE 6 (9): e24725

Jacobs, A., Ford, K., Kretschmer, J. & Tester, M. (2011) Rice plants expressing the moss sodium pumping ATPase maintain greater biomass production under salt stress. Plant Biotechnology Journal 9, 838–847

Aizat, W.M., Preuss, J.M., Johnson, A.A.T., Tester, M. & Schultz, C.J. (2011) Testing the potential of a His-rich arabinogalactan protein for micronutrient biofortification. Physiologia Plantarum 143, 271-286

Furbank, R.T & Tester, M. (2011) Phenomics – technologies to relieve the phenotyping bottleneck. Trends in Plant Science 12, 635-644 (commissioned “feature review”)

Bowne J, Bacic A, Tester M, Roessner U (2011) Abiotic stress and metabolomics Annual Plant Reviews, Volume 43, Biology of Plant Metabolomics, Ch 3, Robert Hall (ed) Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 43, (ISBN: 978-1-4051-9954-4), pp 61-86.,descCd-tableOfContents.html


Tester, M. & Langridge, P. (2010) Breeding technologies to increase crop production in a changing world. Science 327: 818-822 (invited review)

Genc Y, Tester, M & McDonald G.K. (2010). Calcium requirement of wheat in saline and non-saline conditions. Plant and Soil 327: 331-345

Jha, D., Shirley, N., Tester, M. & Roy, S.J. (2010) Expression profiling of transporters important in salinity tolerance in four ecotypes of Arabidopsis. Plant, Cell & Environment 33: 793-804 [MT is corresponding author]

HvNax3 - a locus controlling sodium exclusion derived from wild barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum). Functional & Integrative Genomics 10: 277-291

Tregeagle, J.M. Walker, R.R., Tisdall, J.M. & Tester, M. (2010) Cl- uptake, transport and accumulation in grapevine rootstocks of differing Cl--excluding ability. Functional Plant Biology 37: 665-673

Genc, Y., Oldach, K., Verbyla, A.P., Lott, G., Hassan, M., Tester, M., Wallwork, H. & McDonald, G.K. (2010) Sodium exclusion QTL associated with improved seedling growth in bread wheat under salinity stress. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 121:877–894

Berger, B., Parent. B. & Tester, M. (2010) High throughput imaging to study drought responses. Journal of Experimental Botany 61: 3519-3528

Plett, D., Safwat, G., Shirley, N., Møller, I.S., Gilliham, M., Roy, S.J., Jacobs, A., Johnson A. & Tester, M. (2010) Improved salinity tolerance of rice through cell type-specific expression of AtHKT1;1. PLoS ONE 5(9): e12571

Harris, B.N., Sadras, V.O. & Tester, M. (2010) A water-centred framework to assess the effects of salinity on the growth and yield of wheat and barley. Plant & Soil 336:377–389

Plett, D., Johnson, A., Jacobs, A and Tester, M. (2010) Cell type-specific expression of sodium transporters improves salinity tolerance of rice. GM Crops, 1 (5): 1-3

Plett, D., Toubia, J., Garnett, T., Tester, M., Kaiser, B & Baumann, U. (2010) Dichotomy in the NRT gene families of dicotyledons and grass species. PLoS ONE 5 (12): e15289

Shavrukov, Y., Langridge, P., Tester, M. & Nevo, E. (2010) Wide genetic diversity of salinity tolerance, sodium exclusion and growth in wild emmer wheat, Triticum dicoccoides. Breeding Science 60: 426–435 [MT is corresponding author]

Mason, M.G., Jha, J., Salt, D.E., Tester, M., Hill, K., Kieber, J.J. & Schaller, G.E. (2010) Type-B response regulators ARR1 and ARR12 regulate expression of AtHKT1;1, and accumulation of sodium in Arabidopsis shoots. Plant Journal 64: 753-763

Cushman, J. and Tester, M., eds (2010) Special Issue on Drought and Salinity Stress. Plant, Cell & Environment 33 (4), 453-669

Plett, D, Berger, B. & Tester, M. (2010) Genetic determinants of salinity tolerance in crop plants. In: Jenks, M. & Wood, A., eds. Genes for Plant Abiotic Stress, pp 83-111 (Wiley-Blackwell)


Rajendran, K., Tester, M. & Roy, S.J. (2009) Quantifying the three main components of salinity tolerance in cereals. Plant, Cell & Environment 32: 237-249 [MT is corresponding author]

Grace, E.J., Cotsaftis, O., Tester, M., Smith, F.A. & Smith, S.E. (2009) Arbuscular mycorrhizal inhibition of growth in barley cannot be attributed to extent of colonisation, fungal P uptake or effects on expression of plant phosphate transporter genes. New Phytologist 181: 938-949

Møller, I.S., Gilliham, M., Jha, D., Mayo, G.M., Roy, S.J., Coates, J.C., Haseloff, J. & Tester, M. (2009) Shoot Na+ exclusion and increased salinity tolerance engineered by cell type-specific manipulation of Na+ transport in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 21: 2163–2178

Widodo, Roessner, U., Patterson, J.H., Newbigin, E.J., Tester, M. & Bacic A. (2009) Metabolic responses to salt stress of the barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) cultivars, Sahara and Clipper, which differ in salinity tolerance.  Journal of Experimental Botany 60: 4089-4103

Shavrukov, Y., Langridge, P. & Tester, M. (2009) Salinity tolerance and sodium exclusion in genus Triticum. Breeding Science 59: 671–678


Munns, R. & Tester, M. (2008) Salinity tolerance in higher plants. Annual Reviews of Plant Biology 59: 651-681

Roy, S.J., Gilliham, M., Berger, B., Essah, P.A., Cheffings, C., Miller, A.J., Widdowson, L., Davenport, R.J., Liu, L.-H., Skynner, M.J., Davies, J.M., Richardson, P., Leigh, R.A. and Tester, M. (2008) Investigating glutamate receptor-like gene co-expression in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant, Cell & Environment 31: 861-871

Tracy, F.E., Gilliham, M., Dodd, A.N., Webb, A.A.R. & Tester, M. (2008) Cytosolic free Ca2+ in Arabidopsis thaliana are heterogeneous and modified by external ionic composition. Plant, Cell & Environment 31: 1063-1073

Izanloo, A., Condon, A.G., Langridge, P., Tester , M. and Schnurbusch, T. (2008) Different mechanisms of adaptation to cyclic water stress in two South Australian bread wheat cultivars. Journal of Experimental Botany 59: 3327-3346


Davenport R.J., Muñoz-Mayor A., Jha, D., Essah P.A., Rus A. & Tester M. (2007) The Na+ transporter AtHKT1 controls xylem retrieval of Na+ in Arabidopsis. Plant, Cell & Environment 30: 497-507

Byrt, C.S., Platten, J.D., Spielmeyer, W., James, R.A., Lagudah, E.S., Dennis, E.S., Tester, M. & Munns, R. (2007) HKT1;5-like cation transporters linked to Na+ exclusion loci in wheat, Nax2 and Kna1. Plant Physiology 143: 1918-1928

Lunde, C., Drew, D.P., Jacobs, A.K. & Tester, M. (2007) Exclusion of Na+ via sodium ATPase (PpENA1) ensures normal growth of Physcomitrella patens under moderate salt stress. Plant Physiology 144: 1786-1796 (with cover image)

Jacobs, A., Lunde, C., Bacic, A., Tester, M., Roessner, U. (2007) The impact of constitutive heterologous expression of a moss Na+ transporter on the metabolomes of rice and barley. Metabolomics 3: 307-317

Genc, Y., McDonald, G.K. & Tester, M. (2007) Reassessment of tissue Na+ concentration as a criterion for salinity tolerance in bread wheat. Plant, Cell & Environment 30: 1486-1498

Sutton, T., Baumann, U., Hayes, J., Shi, B.-J., Collins, N.C., Schnurbusch, T., Hay, A., Mayo, G., Pallotta, M., Tester, M. & Langridge, P. (2007) Boron-toxicity tolerance in barley arising from efflux transporter amplification. Science 318:  1446-1449

Chen, Z., Pottosin, I.I., Cuin, T.A., Fuglsang, A.T., Tester, M., Jha, D., Zepeda-Jazo, I., Zhou, M., Palmgren, M.G., Newman, I.A. & Shabala, S. (2007) Root plasma membrane transporters controlling K+/Na+ homeostasis in salt-stressed barley. Plant Physiology 145: 1714-1725

Schnurbusch, T., Huang, C., Collins, N.C., Sutton, T., John, U., Roy, S., Paltridge, N., Tester, M., Langridge P. & Fincher, G.B. (2007) Prospects for developing GM varieties of wheat and barley with enhanced tolerance to abiotic stress. Agricultural Science 21: 4-10

Møller, I.S. and Tester, M. (2007) Salinity tolerance of Arabidopsis: a good model for cereals? Trends in Plant Science 12: 534-540

Johnson, A., Yu, S.-M. & Tester, M. (2007) Activation tagging systems in rice. In: Uphadyana, N.M., ed., ‘Rice Functional Genomics: Challenges, Progress and Prospects’, pp 333-353 (Springer)


Platten, J.D., Cotsaftis, O., Berthomieu, P., Bohnert, H., Bressan, R., Davenport, R.J., Fairbairn, D.J., Horie, T., Leigh, R.A., Lin, H.-X., Luan, S., Mäser, P., Pantoja, O., Rodríguez-Navarro, A., Schroeder, J.I., Sentenac, H., Uozumi, N., Véry, A.-A., Zhu, J.-K., Dennis, E.S. and Tester, M. (2006) Nomenclature for HKT genes, key determinants of plant salinity tolerance. Trends in Plant Sciences 11: 372-374

Murthy, M. & Tester, M. (2006) K+ and Na+ currents across the plasma membrane of protoplasts from the roots of wild type and a Na+ hyperaccumulating mutant of Capsicum. Journal of Experimental Botany 57: Special Issue on Salinity, 1171-1180

Gilliham, M., Sullivan, W., Tester, M. & Tyerman, S.D. (2006) Simultaneous flux and current measurement from single plant protoplasts reveals a strong link between K+ fluxes and current, but no link between Ca2+ fluxes and current. Plant Journal 46: 134-144

Walch-Liu, P., Liu, L.-H., Remans, T., Tester, M. & Forde, B.G. (2006) Evidence that L-glutamate can act as an exogenous signal to modulate root growth and branching in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant & Cell Physiology 47: 1045-1057


Johnson, A.A.T., Hibberd, J.M., Gay, C., Essah, P.A., Haseloff, J., Tester, M. and Guiderdoni, E. (2005) Spatial control of transgene expression in rice (Oryza sativa L.) using the GAL4 enhancer trapping system. Plant Journal 41: 779-789  [MT is corresponding author] (with cover image)

Tester, M. & Bacic, A. (2005). Abiotic stress tolerance in grasses. From model plants to crop plants. Plant Physiology 137: 791-793

Davenport, R.J., James, R.A., Zakrisson-Plogander, A., Tester, M. & Munns, R.J. (2005) Control of sodium transport in durum wheat. Plant Physiology 137: 807-818 (with cover image)

Gilliham, M. & Tester, M. (2005) The regulation of anion loading to the maize root xylem. Plant Physiology 137: 819-828



Professional Associations

Fellow, Institute of Biology
Society for Experimental Biology
American Society of Plant Biologists
Australian Society of Plant Scientists
Cambridge Philosophical Society
Institute for Learning and Teaching

Professional Interests

Professor Mark Tester is a scientist with much energy who is passionate about research and discovery, with a commitment to lifelong learning. He is committed to education and assisting and supporting others in fulfilling their potential. He is focused on high quality science that contributes broadly to both increasing intellectual knowledge of plant function and to increasing the sustainability of the planet. He has a high level of professional integrity and intellectual rigour, and the quality of his science is reflected in both the quality of his publications and the recognition of these by others. He is the leader of four productive and coherent research programs, in salinity, nitrogen use efficiency, plant growth analysis (The Plant Accelerator) and floriculture (in his private company, Bioconst).


Professor Tester operates in a broad, cross-disciplinary manner, his science spanning cell biology, whole plant physiology and genetics. He has the capacity to attract significant funding and to implement ideas, such as shown in his building of The Plant Accelerator, from inception to completion, co-ordinating a wide range of expertise from engineers and architects to plant scientists and financial managers. He has strong financial and administrative management skills, overseeing large projects with significant budgets and many staff.


His commercial acumen is clear from his establishment of private companies and successful interactions with multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Pioneer-DuPont.  He is a Director of Australia’s largest wheat breeding company, Australian Grains Technologies.


Community Engagement

Active in public communication since 2000, particularly on GM issues, primarily in printed media and radio, but also talks in public fora (e.g. Café Scientifique, Friends of Botanic Gardens). Also:

2011       Tester, M. (2011) GM food tarnished by urban myths. Sydney Morning Herald and The Age 17 February 2011

                Panellist, Australia Talks, ABC Radio National, on GM food, 2 March 2011; ABC TV, Landline special on food security, 26 June 2011; Channel 10 children’s TV, on global food security, 9 July 2011; debate with Greenpeace, ABC Country Hour, 18 October 2011

2010       Tester, M. (2010) Food security in the 21st century. Australian Literary Review, December issue (commissioned article )

                Speaker at Seniors Education Association

                Speaker at TEDx Adelaide, Royal Institution (Australia)

                Invited speaker, Agriculture Outlook 2010, Sydney

                Invited speaker, Outlook 2010 (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics)

                Licensing Executives Society of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference

                Speaker in the Australian Pavilion, Shanghai Expo

                Tester, M. and Morris, C. (2010) GM crops – meeting the growing need. In: Emmett, P and Kanellos, T., eds. The Museum of Economic Botany at the Adelaide Botanic Garden – a souvenir, pp. 70-73.

                Numerous articles in printed and broadcast media, particularly on The Plant Accelerator

                Article on ABC Catalyst, “Shock Salt: Designing salt tolerant crops”, at

2009       Named in The Weekend Australian Magazine100 emerging leaders’ series, for work on salinity

                Approx 100 articles in printed and online media on Møller et al (2009) article, incl in The Times (UK), The Age (Australia) and Der Spiegel (Germany)

                Over 20 radio appearances, including ABC Radio National and BBC 5 Live

                Tester, M. (2009) GM crops are another tool in the struggle against poverty, at



                Committee for the Economic Development of Australia conference on the Future of Farming

                Talk at a GRDC Farmers’ Updates session at Loxton, SA

2008       ABC news in January and February, numerous accompanying newspaper articles

                Plenary speaker, South Australian Science Teachers Association

                Evidence to Tasmanian Parliament Joint Select Committee on gene technology in agriculture

Publications in this genre in 2008 include:

                Tester, M., Langridge, P. (2008) Crops aren’t invasive. New Scientist 197, 24 – letter to editor

                Tester, M. (2008) Organic and GM – why not? Science 322: 1190-1 – commissioned book review

                Tester, M. (2008) Algal biofuels. The Australian, 9 December, 2008 – commissioned Opinion piece

2007       Cover feature of the Stock Journal, 20 July 2007

                ABC Science Show, 18 August (


Entry last updated: Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013

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