Shelley Lumba

Assistant Professor


St. George (downtown)

CSB Appointment


Research Areas

Developmental Biology, Genetics / Genomics, Molecular Biology, Plant Biology, Systems Biology


Ph.D. University of Toronto 2007
BSc Hon, University of Toronto 2000

Primary Undergraduate Department

Cell & Systems Biology

Graduate Programs

Cell & Systems Biology

Research Description

The Lumba Research Group is interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying dormancy and germination in parasitic plants like Striga. In Africa, S. hermonthica is the most destructive Striga species by parasitizing major food crops such as sorghum, rice and millet and causing yield losses in the range of 30 to 100%. Striga infestations adversely affect the lives of over 100 million people in 25 countries. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie dormancy and germination in the Striga seed is essential to developing strategies to combat Striga. These molecular mechanisms, however, are poorly understood. We apply systems biology approaches to integrate genomic, transcriptome and protein-protein interaction data to generate signalling networks underlying germination in a parasitic model, Striga and a non-parasitic model, Arabidopsis. To generate protein interaction datasets for Striga and Arabidopsis, we have developed a “tabletop interactome” method consisting of high-throughput, binary yeast two-hybrid studies. Our particular focus is on signalling networks of plant hormones such as SL (strigolactone), GA (gibberrellic acid) and ABA (abscisic acid), which are known to play critical roles in the decision to germinate. By generating signalling networks at the protein level, we are closer to a cellular understanding of germination processes in plants. Further comparisons of signalling networks between Striga and Arabidopsis will also reveal clues to the evolution of a parasitic lifecycle. Our goal is to take advantage of these differences to develop strategies that prevent Striga from germinating and infecting its host.

Contact Information

Office Phone: 416-978-8262
Office: ESC4069
Lab: ESC4065
Lab Phone: 416-978-0563

Mailing Address

Department of Cell & Systems Biology
University of Toronto
25 Willcocks St.
Toronto, ON M5S 3B2

Visit lab’s website

Recent News

Excellence and excitement at CSB Research Day 2024

The wide variety of cutting-edge science in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology was on full display in the distinguished halls of Hart House…

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Life sciences students honour CSB Teaching Assistants with Teaching Excellence Award

Congratulations to this year’s TA Teaching Excellence Award winners, Ruby He, Mary-Elizabeth Raymond, Andrea-Aditi Taylor and Kathryn McTavish!…

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Blocking the signal: Dr Sylvia Mutinda earns Provost Post-doctoral Award to understand how parasitic plants eavesdrop on crops

Dr Sylvia Mutinda is a scientist from Kenya who works on a parasitic plant, Striga hermonthica, that infests crops in Africa. She will be coming to…

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Structural analysis of a hormone-bound Striga strigolactone receptor

Arellano-Saab A, Skarina T, Xu Z, McErlean CSP, Savchenko A, Lumba S, Stogios PJ, McCourt P
2023, Nature Plants,

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Three mutations repurpose a plant karrikin receptor to a strigolactone receptor

Arellano-Saab A, Bunsick M, Al Galib H, Zhao W, Schuetz S, Bradley JM, Xu Z, Adityani C, Subha A, McKay H, de Saint Germain A, Boyer F, McErlean CSP, Toh S, McCourt P, Stogios PJ, Lumba S
2021, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10.1073/pnas.2103175118

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SMAX1-dependent seed germination bypasses GA signalling in Arabidopsis and Striga

Bunsick M, Toh S, Wong C, Xu Z, Ly G, McErlean CSP, Pescetto G, Nemrish KE, Sung P, Li JD, Scholes JD, Lumba S
2020, Nature Plants, 10.1038/s41477-020-0653-z

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The transcription factor FUSCA3 controls developmental timing in Arabidopsis through the hormones gibberellin and abscisic acid.

Gazzarrini S, Tsuchiya Y, Lumba S, Okamoto M, McCourt P
2004, Developmental cell, 7, 373-85, 15363412

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