Professor Maria Hrmova

Professor Maria Hrmova
 Position Professor
 Org Unit Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG)
 Telephone +61 8 8313 7160
 Location Floor/Room 2 36 ,  Plant Genomics Centre ,   Waite
  • Qualifications

    • Doctor Scientiarum (DrSc) in Chemistry, Comenius University, Slovak Republic
    • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry, Comenius University/ Slovak University of Technology, Czecho-Slovakia
    • Master of Science (MSc) in Biochemistry, Comenius University, Czecho-Slovakia
    • Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Biochemistry, Comenius University, 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

    My expertise is in the multidisciplinary field of structural biochemistry and I investigate molecular mechanisms that underpin the function of plant proteins in three major areas: 

    TRANSPORT PROTEINS INVOLVED IN THE REGULATION OF BORON TOXICITY TOLERANCE AND SALINITY - My laboratory is focused on the structural and functional properties of plant borate and HKT (High-affinity Potassium Transporter) Na+/K+ transporters, and on orthodox and multifunctional aquaporins. By combining in silico and in vitro methods, we discovered that borate transporters mediate Na+-dependent anion transport and exhibit channel-like characteristics. With HKT transporters, we designed a model for Na+-exclusion in rice, and explained that variations in tolerance can be explained by transcription, alternative splicing, and a HKT structure. We also explained the long-standing question, how the structural variations in wheat HKT proteins underpin differences in Na+ transport capacity; this work was highlighted on the front cover of Cell Mol Life Sci. Additionally, develop membrane protein production methods of transporter proteins based on cell-based and cell-free synthesis approaches, and create membrane mimicking environments of bicelles, liposomes, lipodiscs and nanodiscs. We reconstituted and imaged large transport membrane proteins in these artificial environments via atomic force microscopy and small angle X-ray scattering using synchrotron radiation.

    TRANSCRIPTION FACTORS INVOLVED IN THE REGULATION OF PLANT RESPONSES TO DROUGHT - We perform extensive molecular modelling studies of transcription factors in complex with DNA cis-elements, such as bZIP, HDZip, DREB, ERF, NFY-YB, CBF and MYB-types of factors, and validate their DNA-binding properties in vitro. We described the molecular mechanisms of salt-sensitive SOS3 and lipid-binding proteins, and defensins. We engineered wheat transcription factor variants and in breakthrough genetic science using transgenic plants, we showed that these mutations change DNA recognition and plant responses to abiotic stresses, such as drought and frost. During last ten years, our work has been highlighted on the front covers of Plant Biotechnology Journal, Plant Molecular Biology and Journal of Experimental Botany.

    ENZYMES INVOLVED IN PLANT DEVELOPMENT - We focus on hydrolytic enzymes to define in atomic details catalytic mechanisms, thermodynamic and structural determinants of substrate recognition, and natures of transition states during catalysis. We crystallised the plant exohydrolase enzyme and solved its crystal structure, which represents the first atomic structure of this type of a hydrolase. We solved around 50 crystal structures of an exohydrolase in complex with substrate analogues, mechanism-based inhibitors and transition-state mimics. Using X-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and molecular dynamics/quantum mechanical simulations, we predicted the existence of a glucose product egressing trajectory in the exohydrolytic enzyme. Our work has been highlighted several times on book and journal (Plant Cell) front covers.

  • Research Funding

    Research in the Hrmova group is funded by grants from the Australian Research Council, by the Grains Research & Development Corporation, the South Australian Government, the Waite Research Institute of the University of Adelaide, DuPont Pioneer and by the Australian Synchrotron Research Program. The latter is supported by the Commonwealth of Australia under the Major National Research Facilities Program.


    Expertise for Media Contact



    Science & Technology, Biotechnology


    Biochemistry and biophysics; carbohydrate and protein chemistry; genomics and genetic engineering; transport proteins; transcription factors; enzyme structure and mechanisms; molecular mechanisms of plant abiotic stress tolerance.

  • Publications

    Xu B, Waters S, Byrt CS, Plett D, Tyerman SD, Tester M, Munns R, Hrmova M, Gilliham M (2017) Structural variations in wheat HKT1;5 underpin differences in Na+ transport capacity. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, Featured on the front cover.

    Yang Y, Luang S, Harris J, Riboni M, Li Y, Bazanova N, Hrmova M, Haefele S, Kovalchuk N, Lopato S (2017) Overexpression of the class I homeodomain transcription factor TaHDZipI-5 increases drought and frost tolerance in transgenic wheat. Plant Biotechnology Journal, DOI: 10.1111/pbi.12865.

    Luang S, Hrmova M (2017) Structural basis of the permeation function of plant aquaporins. In: Plant Aquaporins, Series Signaling and Communication in Plants, Subtitle: From Transport to Signaling (Chaumont F, Tyerman SD, eds), pp 1-28. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, London, ISBN 978-3-319-49393-0. Invited review.

    Bi H, Luang S, Li Y, Bazanova N, Borisjuk N, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2017) Wheat drought-responsive WXPL transcription factors regulate cuticle biosynthesis genes. Plant Molecular Biology 94,15-32. Featured on the front cover.

    Nagarajan Y, Rongala J, Luang S, Singh A, Shadiac N, Hayes J, Sutton T, Gilliham M, Tyerman SD, McPhee G, Voelcker NH, Mertens HDT, Kirby NM, Lee J-G, Yingling YG, Hrmova M (2016) A barley efflux transporter operates in a Na+-dependent manner, as revealed through a multidisciplinary platform. The Plant Cell 28, 202-218.

    Zieleniecki J, Nagarajan Y, Waters S, Rongala J, Thompson V, Hrmova M, Köper I (2016) Cell-free synthesis of a functional membrane transporter into a tethered bilayer lipid membrane. American Chemical Society: Langmuir 32, 2445-2449.

    Bi H, Luang S, Li Y, Bazanova N, Morran S, Song Z, Perera MA, Hrmova M, Borisjuk N, Lopato S (2016) Identification and characterisation of wheat drought-responsive MYB transcription factors involved in the regulation of cuticle biosynthesis. Journal of Experimental Botany 67, 5363-5380. Featured on the front cover.

    Rabiger DS, Taylor JM, Spriggs A, Hand ML, Henderson ST, Johnson SD, Oelkers K, Hrmova M, Saito K, Suzuki G, Mukai M, Carroll BJ, Koltunow AMG (2016) Generation of an integrated Hieracium genomic and transcriptomic resource enables exploration of small RNA pathways during apomixis initiation. BMC Biology 14:86.

    Kovalchuk N, Chew W, Sornaraj P, Borisjuk N, Yang N, Singh R, Bazanova N, Shavrukov Y, Guendel A, Munz E, Borisjuk L, Langridge P, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2016) The homeodomain transcription factor TaHDZipI-2 from wheat regulates frost tolerance, flowering time and spike development in transgenic barley. New Phytologist 211, 671-687.

    Harris JC, Sornaraj P, Taylor M, Bazanova N, Baumann U, Lovell B, Langridge P, Lopato S, Hrmova M (2016) Molecular interaction of the γ-Clade Homeodomain-Leucine Zipper class I transcription factors during the wheat response to water deficit. Plant Molecular Biology 90, 435-452. Featured on the front cover.

    Li B, Evrard A, Qiu J, Johnson AAT, Baumann U, Birnbaum KD, Hrmova M, Mayo GM, Jha D, Henderson S, Tester M, Gilliham M, Roy SJ (2016) Identification of a stelar-localised transport protein that facilitates root-to-shoot transfer of chloride in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiology 170, 1014-1029.

    Sornaraj P, Luang S, Lopato S, Hrmova M (2016) Basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factors involved in abiotic stresses: A molecular model of a wheat bZIP factor and implications of its structure and function. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - General Subjects 1850, 46-56.

    Amalraj A, Luang S, Kumar M, Sornaraj P, Eini O, Kovalchuk N, Bazanova N, Li Y, Yang N, Eliby S, Langridge P, Hrmova M, Lopato S (2016) Change of function of the wheat stress-responsive transcriptional repressor TaRAP2.1L by repressor motif modification. Plant Biotechnology Journal 14, 820-832.

    Yadav D, Shavrukov Y, Bazanova N, Chirkova L, Borisjuk N, Kovalchuk N, Ismagul A, Parent B, Hrmova M, Langridge P, Lopato S (2015) Constitutive over-expression of the TaNF-YB4 gene in transgenic wheat significantly improves grain yield. Journal of Experimental Botany 66, 6635-6650.

    Zhang H, Luo M, Day R, Talbot MJ, Ivanova A, Ashton AR, Chaudhury AM, Macknight R, Hrmova M, Koltunow AM (2015) Developmentally regulated HEART STOPPER, a mitochondrially targeted L18 ribosomal protein gene, is required for cell division, differentiation and seed development in Arabidopsis. Journal of Experimental Botany 66, 5867-5880.

    Tankrathok A, Iglesias-Fernández J, Williams RJ, Pengthaisong S, Baiya S, Hakki Z, Robinson RC, Hrmova M, Rovira C, Williams SJ, Ketudat Cairns JR (2015) A single glycosidase harnesses different transition state conformations for hydrolysis of mannosides and glucosides. American Chemical Society: Catalysis, 5, 6041-6051.

    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), Volume 2, Part II: Crop productivity, food security and nutritional quality, pp 291-316. Springer Verlag, Netherlands, ISBN 978-94-007-7574-9. 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) TdPR61 is a marker for nutrient fluxes and transport pathways in the endosperm and embryo of wheat, barley and rice. Journal of Experimental Botany 63, 2025-2040. Featured on the front cover.

    Harris J, Hrmova M, Lopato S, Langridge P (2011) Modulation of plant growth by HDZip 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. Featured on the front cover.

    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. Featured on the front cover.

    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 disease resistance in cereal grains. Plant Biotechnology Journal 8, 47-64. Featured on the front cover.

    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. Featured on the front cover.

    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)-β-d-glucans, galacto- and rhamnomannans, (1,3;1,4)-β-d-glucans and chitin. FEBS Journal 276, 4122-41133. Featured on the front cover.

    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. Featured on the front cover.

    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). The Plant Cell 20, 2372-2386. Featured on the front cover.

    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. Featured on the front cover.

    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.

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Entry last updated: Sunday, 31 Dec 2017

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