Dr Natalie Ferry

Lecturer in Biotechnology

Biography

My first degree was in Plant Science from the University of Durham.  Following this I developed an interest in Genetically Modified Crops and studied for my PhD at the University of Newcastle working on the environmental impact of GM crops. I worked as a postdoctoral scientist at Newcastle University for 6 years, focusing initially on cell wall degrading enzymes (with Prof Harry Gilbert) and then the Molecular basis of Plant-Insect Interactions (with Prof Angharad Gatehouse).  I took my lectureship in Biotechnology at the University of Salford in 2010 where my research now focuses on cell wall degrading enzymes from invertebrates, GM crops and plant peptides.

Teaching

Due to my interests and background in biotechnology I lead both masters and final year undergraduate modules in this area including Level 7 Plant Biotechnology, Medical Biotechnology and Level 6 Biotechnology.

I also contribute to the bioinformatics component of the Study Skills module; run a PCR workshop for the Genomics and Proteomics module; and offer a range of research projects at both level 6 and 7 focusing mainly on the biochemical characterization of cellulase enzymes and the use of 16S rDNA PCR to identify the microbial consortia involved in cellulose degradation in invertebrate guts.

Research Interests

My research is primarily focused on agricultural biotechnology. Climate change, population growth and the with-drawl of pesticide products from the EU threaten food security and innovation in this area is increasingly recognised as the means to tackle these problems.  To this end my research focuses on the interactions between environment and organism and understanding the molecular interactions of the system. 

Investigating Plant-Insect Interactions at the Molecular Level. Plant responses to insect feeding (and other forms of stress) are highly complex and multidimensional. A key focus is characterizing the plant responses to herbivory using proteomics approaches.

Investigating the environmental impact of GM crops. Plants expressing insecticidal proteins have the potential to have a deleterious impact on organisms at higher trophic levels (such as predators and parasitoids). This work focuses on the effects of Bacillus thuringiensis toxins, lectins and enzyme inhibitors on insect digestive physiology; specifically the ability of predators to respond to and overcome the effects of exposure to insecticidal proteins via up-regulation of digestive proteases or other enzymes; as well as binding of Bacillus thuringiensis toxins to the insect mid-gut and identification of Bt receptors.

Novel lignocellulose degrading enzymes.  Biomass in the form of bioenergy provides about 10% of the global energy supply (50 EJ/year), and is the largest source of renewable energy.  First generation biofuel has used starch and sugar from food crops which can be fermented to bioethanol.  Second generation biofuels aim to use lignocellulosic material (plant cell walls) as the main carbohydrate source thus preventing food and fuel competing for agricultural land.  Biochemical conversion of biomass advantageously preserves the original carbohydrate structures in the form of monomeric sugars and enzyme technology is generally considered the most sustainable technology for saccharification. However, despite large efforts in the past, the (in)efficiency of enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic materials remains a key limiting step.  My work aims to construct metagenomic libraries from the guts of invertebrates known to digest lignocellulose and screen for novel enzymes.

Plant peptides. Work recently begun aims to use regions of plant lectins to (a) specifically recognise cancer cells and (b) to deliver either a toxin or siRNA into a cell.

Qualifications and Memberships

BSc Plant Science (2000) University of Durham

PhD (2004) University of Newcastle

Publications

ORIGINAL RESEARCH

Selected Publications:

Xu L, Ferry N, Wang Z, Zhang J,  Edwards MG, Gatehouse AMR, and He K (2013) A proteomic approach to study the mechanism of cross-resistance in Cry1Ab-resistant Ostrinia furnacalis larvae. Transgenic Research. Accepted In Press

Ferry N, Stavroulakis S, Guan WZ, Davison GM, Bell HA, Weaver RJ, Down RE, Gatehouse JA, Gatehouse AMR. Molecular interactions between wheat and cereal aphid (Sitobion avenae): Analysis of changes to the wheat proteome. Proteomics 2011, 11(10), 1985-2002.

Gatehouse AMR, Ferry N, Edwards MG, Bell HA. Insect-resistant biotech crops and their impacts on beneficial arthropods. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2011, 366(1569), 1438-1452.

Xu L, Wang Z, Zhang J, He K, Ferry N, Gatehouse AMR (2010) Cross-resistance of Cry1Ab-selected Asian corn borer to other Cry toxins. Journal of Applied Entomology 134(5), 429-438.

Konrad R, Grabbert M, Ferry N, Gatehouse AMR, Babendreier D (2008) Transgenic plants and pollinators: Potential effects on solitary bees. PLoS ONE 3(7), e2664.

Ferry N, Gatehouse AMR. Successes and failures in Plant-Insect Interactions: Is it possible to stay one step ahead of the insects? In: Diaz, I., Smagghe, G, ed.Arthropod-Plant Interactions, Novel Insights and Aproaches for IPM. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2012, pp.89-126.

Publication Summary:

19 papers in international refereed journals, 4 book chapters, editor of 1 book, author of 1 book.