Doctor Robert Sharwood

Robert SharwoodDr Robert Sharwood is a VC Fellow / Senior Lecturer within the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and affiliated with the School of Science. His research interests centre on developing climate-adapted germplasm through discovering novel heat tolerant and drought resistance mechanisms/traits that contribute to improvements in carbon fixation under future climate scenarios. His program spans from the gene to the protein to alter the biochemistry of photosynthesis through synthetic biology approaches to ultimately tailor crops to the prevailing climate. He focuses on crops such as maize, cotton, wheat, canola and rice and a number of important Eucalypt species including E. camaldulensis and E. globulus.

To mitigate climate variability, he is currently developing a new research program to improve the performance of fruit and vegetable crops within a protected cropping scenario.

Areas of Research / Teaching Expertise

Chloroplast RNA Biology, Biochemistry of C3 and C4 Photosynthesis, Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology, Biotechnology, Phenotyping and Crop Production.

Awards and recognition

  • 2020: Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow (Plant Molecular Biology) for 4 years
  • 2018 Higher Education Analysis – Published by the Australian Newspaper.
    Ranked a Leader in Botany Research within Australia.
  • 2016 Australian Academy of Science: Thomas Davies Research Fund – Project
    titled: Unlocking the diversity of Rubisco catalysis from deep-sea ocean α-cyanobacteria for eventual transplantation into higher plant chloroplasts to improve photosynthetic CO2 assimilation.
  • 2013 Department of Agriculture and Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Cotton
    Research Development Corporation – “Science and Innovation Award”. Project
    titled - Improved understanding of the underlying physiology contributing to heat tolerance and
    water use efficiency in cotton.

Sharwood Research Images

Editorial Board Memberships

Journal of Experimental Botany, PLOS One, Plant Growth and Regulation.


2017 – 2020 NSW Environmental Trust: Climate Change Research. Project titled: Adaptive evolution of Eucalyptus trees under future climates.

Cotton Research Development Corporation: Cotton Research - PhD Project titled: Building climate resilience within Cotton through translational physiology.

2016-2018 Australian Academy of Science: Thomas Davies Research Fund. Project titled: Unlocking the diversity of Rubisco catalysis from deep-sea ocean α-cyanobacteria for eventual transplantation into higher plant chloroplasts to improve photosynthetic CO2 assimilation.

2013-2016 Australian Research Council: Discovery Early Career Award, Project titled: Uncovering the roles of key ribonucleases critical for post-transcriptional control of chloroplast gene expression.

2016 Cotton Research and Development Corporation: Science Travel Grant For travel to the World Conference (Goiania, Brazil) as an Invited Speaker.

2015 Cotton Research and Development Corporation: Science Exchange Grant - Project titled – Understanding the biochemistry that underpins Cotton photosynthesis.

Selected Publications

Book Chapters

Whitney, S.M and Sharwood, R.E. Rubisco Engineering by Plastid Transformation and Protocols for Assessing Expression (2021) Maliga P (ed) Chloroplast Biotechnology: Tools for Plastid Genome Engineering. Methods in Molecular Biology, 2nd edn. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, New York (IN PRESS)

Sharwood, R.E., and Long, B.M. Engineering photosynthetic CO2 assimilation to develop new crop varieties to cope with future climates (2020) Advances in Photosynthesis – Accepted.

Whitney, S.M., and Sharwood, R.E., Plastid transformation for Rubisco engineering and protocols for assessing expression. (2014) Methods Mol Biol. 132:245-62.

Sharwood, R.E., and Whitney, S.M. Engineering the sunflower Rubisco subunits into tobacco chloroplasts – New considerations. (2010) Chapter 19 In: The Chloroplast: Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Bioengineering: Advances in Photosynthesis. Volume 31, 285-306.

Journal Articles

Furbank RT, Sharwood RE, Estavillo GM, Silva-Perez V, Condon AG, (2020) 'Photons to food: genetic improvement of cereal crop photosynthesis', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.71, no.7, pp 2226-2238

Li XM, Shi W, Broughton K, Smith R, Sharwood R, Payton P, Bange M, Tissue DT, (2020) 'Impacts of growth temperature, water deficit and heatwaves on carbon assimilation and growth of cotton plants (Gossypium hirsutum L.)', Environmental and Experimental Botany, vol.179, Article no.104204

Martin-Avila E, Lim Y, Birch R, Dirk LM, Buck S, Rhodes T, Sharwood RE, Kapralov MV, Whitney SM, (2020) 'Modifying Plant Photosynthesis and Growth via Simultaneous Chloroplast Transformation of Rubisco Large and Small Subunits', The Plant Cell, vol.32, no.9, pp 2898-2916

Salesse-Smith CE, Sharwood RE, Busch FA, Stern DB, (2020) 'Increased Rubisco content in maize mitigates chilling stress and speeds recovery', Plant Biotechnology, vol.18, no.6, p 1409

Sharwood RE, (2020) 'Mix-and-Match Rubisco Subunits', Nature Plants, vol.6, pp 1199-1200

Cano FJ, Sharwood RE, Cousins AB, Ghannoum O, (2019) 'The role of leaf width and conductances to CO2 in determining water use efficiency in C4 grasses', New Phytologist, vol.223, no.3, pp 1280-1295

Alonso-Cantabrana H, Cousins AB, Danila FR, Ryan T, Sharwood RE, von Caemmerer S, Furbank RT, (2018) 'Diffusion of CO2 across the mesophyll-bundle sheath cell interface in a C4 plant with genetically reduced PEP carboxylase activity', Plant Physiology, vol.178, no.1, pp 72-81

Crous KY, Drake JE, Aspinwall MJ, Sharwood RE, Tjoelker MG, Ghannoum O, (2018) 'Photosynthetic capacity and leaf nitrogen decline along a controlled climate gradient in provenances of two widely distributed Eucalyptus species', Global Change Biology, vol.24, no.10, pp 4626-4644

Ford B, Foo E, Sharwood RE, Karafiatova M, Vrána J, MacMillan C, Nichols D, Steuernagel B, Uauy C, Doležel J, Chandler PM, Spielmeyer W, (2018) 'Rht18 Semi-Dwarfism in Wheat is Due to Increased Expression of GA 2-oxidaseA9 and Lower GA Content', Plant Physiology, vol.177, no.1, pp 168-180

Long BM, Hee WY, Sharwood RE, Rae BD, Kaines S, Lim YL, Nguyen ND, Massey B, Bala S, von Caemmerer S, Badger MR, Price GD, (2018) 'Carboxysome encapsulation of the CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco in tobacco chloroplasts', Nature Communications, vol.9, no.1, p 3570

Salesse-Smith CE, Sharwood RE, Busch FA, Kromdijk J, Bardal V, Stern DB (2018) 'Overexpression of Rubisco subunits with RAF1 increases Rubisco content in maize', Nature Plants, vol.4, no.10, pp 802-810

Sonawane BV, Sharwood RE, Whitney S, Ghannoum O, (2018) 'Shade compromises the photosynthetic efficiency of NADP-ME less than that of PEP-CK and NAD-ME C-4 grasses', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.69, no.12, pp 3053-3068

Watson-Lazowski A, Papanicolaou A, Sharwood R, Ghannoum O, (2018) 'Investigating the NAD-ME biochemical pathway within C-4 grasses using transcript and amino acid variation in C-4 photosynthetic genes', Photosynthesis Research, vol.138, no.2, pp 233-248

Clayton H, Saladié M, Rolland V, Sharwood RE, Macfarlane T, Ludwig M, (2017) 'Loss of the Chloroplast Transit Peptide from an Ancestral C3 Carbonic Anhydrase Is Associated with C4 Evolution in the Grass Genus Neurachne', Plant Physiology, vol.173, no.3, pp 1648-1658

Heureux AMC, Young JN, Whitney SM, Eason-Hubbard MR, Lee RBY, Sharwood RE, Rickaby REM, (2017) 'The role of Rubisco kinetics and pyrenoid morphology in shaping the CCM of haptophyte microalgae', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.68, no.14, pp 3959–3969

Salese-Smith CE, Sharwood RE, Sakamoto W, Stern D, (2017) 'The Rubisco Chaperone BSD2 May Regulate Chloroplast Coverage in Maize Bundle Sheath Cells', Plant Physiology, vol.175, no.4, pp 1624-1633

Sharwood R, (2017) 'A step forward to building an algal pyrenoid in higher plants', New Phytologist, vol.214, no.2, pp 496-499

Sharwood RE, Crous KY, Whitney SM, Ellsworth DS, Ghannoum O, (2017) 'Linking photosynthesis and leaf N allocation under future elevated CO2 and climate warming in Eucalyptus globulus', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.68, no.5, pp 1157-1167

Sonawane BV, Sharwood RE, von Caemmerer S, Whitney SM, Ghannoum O, (2017) 'Short-term thermal photosynthetic responses of C-4 grasses are independent of the biochemical subtype', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.68, no.20, pp 5583-5597

Young JN, Heureux AMC, Rickaby REM, Morel FMM, Whitney SM, Sharwood RE, (2017) 'Rubisco Extraction and Purification from Diatoms', Bio-Protocols, BioProtoc.2191

Osborn HL, Alonso-Cantabrana H, Sharwood RE, Covshoff S, Evans JR, Furbank RT, von Caemmerer S, (016) 'Effects of reduced carbonic anhydrase activity on CO2 assimilation rates in Setaria viridis: a transgenic analysis', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.68, no.2, pp 299-310

Pinto H, Powell JR, Sharwood RE, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, (2016) 'Variations in nitrogen use efficiency reflect the biochemical subtype while variations in water use efficiency reflect the evolutionary  lineage of C4 grasses at inter-glacial CO2', Plant, Cell and Environment, vol.39, no.3, pp 514-526

Sharwood RE, (2016) 'Engineering chloroplasts to improve Rubisco catalysis: prospects for translating improvements into food and fiber crops', Tansley Review - New Phytologist, vol.213, no.2, pp 494-510

Sharwood RE, Ghannoum O, Kapralov MV, Gunn LH, Whitney SM, (2016) 'Temperature responses of Rubisco from Paniceae grasses provide opportunities for improving C 3 photosynthesis', Nature Plants, vol.2, Article no.16186

Sharwood RE, Ghannoum O, Whitney SM, (2016) 'Prospects for improving CO2 fixation in C3-crops through understanding C4-Rubisco biogenesis and catalytic diversity', Current Opinion in Plant Biology, vol.31, pp 135-142

Sharwood RE, Sonawane BV, Ghannoum O, Whitney SM, (2016) 'Improved analysis of C4 and C3 photosynthesis via refined in vitro assays of their carbon fixation biochemistry', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.67, no.10, pp 3137-3148

Young JN, Heureux AM, Sharwood RE, Rickaby RE, Morel FM, Whitney SM, (2016) 'Large variation in the Rubisco kinetics of diatoms reveals diversity among their carbon-concentrating mechanisms', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.67, no.11, pp 3445-56

Pinto H, Sharwood RE, Tissue DT, Ghannoum O, (2014) 'Photosynthesis of C3, C3-C4 and C4 grasses at glacial CO2', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.65 , no.13 , pp 3669-3681 , Special Issue SI

Sharwood RE, Sonawane BV, Ghannoum O, (2014) 'Photosynthetic flexibility in maize exposed to salinity and shade', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.65, no.13, pp 3715-3724 Special Issue: SI

Sharwood RE, Whitney SM, (2014) 'Correlating Rubisco catalytic and sequence diversity within C3 plants with changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations', Plant Cell Environment, vol.9, pp 1981-1984

Luro S, Germain A, Sharwood RE, Stern DB, (2013) 'RNase J participates in a pentatricopeptide repeat protein-mediated 5' end maturation of chloroplast mRNAs', Nucleic Acids Research, vol.41, no.19, pp 9141-9151

Sharwood RE, Halpert M, Luro SP, Schuster G, Stern DB, (2011) 'Chloroplast RNase J compensates for inefficient transcription termination by removal of antisense RNA', RNA, vol.17, no.12, pp 2165-2176

Sharwood RE, Hotto AM, Bollenbach TB, Stern DB, (2011) 'Overaccumulation of the chloroplast antisense RNA AS5 is correlated with decreased abundance of 5S rRNA in vivo and inefficient maturation in vitro', RNA, vol.17, no.2, pp 230-243

Whitney SM, Sharwood RE, Orr D, White SJ, Alonso H, Galmes J, (2011) 'Isoleucine 309 acts as a C4 catalytic switch that increases ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (rubisco) carboxylation rate in Flaveria', Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, vol.108, no.35, pp 14688-14693

Bollenbach TJ, Sharwood RE, Gutierrez R, Lerbs-Mache S, Stern DB, (2009) 'The RNA-binding proteins CSP41a and CSP41b may regulate transcription and translation of chloroplast-encoded RNAs in Arabidopsis', Plant Molecular Biology, vol.69, no.5, pp 541-552

Whitney SM, Kane, HJ, Houtz RL, Sharwood RE, (2009) 'Rubisco oligomers composed of small and large subunits assemble in tobacco plastids and have higher affinities for CO2 and O2', Plant Physiology, vol.149, no.4, pp 1887-1895

Hendrickson L, Sharwood RE, Ludwig M, Whitney SM, Badger MR, von Caemmerer S, (2008) 'The effects of Rubisco activase on C4 photosynthesis and metabolism at high temperature', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.59, no.7, pp 1789-1798

Sharwood RE, von Caemmerer S, Maliga P, Whitney SM, (2008) 'The catalytic properties of hybrid Rubisco comprising tobacco small and sunflower large subunits mirror the kinetically equivalent source Rubiscos and can support tobacco growth', Plant Physiology, vol.146, no.1, pp 83-96

Whitney SM, Sharwood RE, (2008) 'Improving Rubisco engineering in tobacco chloroplasts', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.59, no.7, pp 1909-1921

Whitney SM, Sharwood RE, (2007) 'Linked Rubisco subunits can assemble into functional oligomers without impeding catalytic performance', Journal of Biological Chemistry, vol.282, no.6, pp 3809-3818

Baker RT, Catanzariti AM, Karunasekara Y, Soboleva TA, Sharwood R, Whitney S, Board PG, (2005) 'Using deubiquitylating enzymes as research tools', Methods in Enzymology, vol.398, pp 540-554

Sharwood R, Whitney S, Andrews TA, (2001) 'comparison of the effectiveness of the promoters and 5 regions of two plastid genes in directing the synthesis of Rubisco small subunits in tobacco plastids',  International Congress on Photosynthesis (PS 2001), CSLI Publications, Melbourne, pp s16-017