Damien Lightfoot

Research Scientists

Research Scientist​​



Damien was awarded his PhD in 2007 from the School of Molecular and Biomedical Science at the University of Adelaide (Australia) for his work on technologies for the development of future transgenic cotton varieties. He joined Professor Tester’s research lab in Australia in 2012 as a postdoctoral researcher and since this time has been involved in several projects related to the molecular and physiological characterization of plant responses to salt stress. In 2014, Damien moved to KAUST to continue his research with Professor Tester.

Research Interests

Damien is currently involved in two major projects. The first of these projects involves the identification and characterization of a novel family of ion channels that appear play a role in sodium influx into the roots of plants and are involved in plant salinity tolerance. While much is known about the mechanisms of sodium transport throughout a plant, the mechanisms underlying initial influx are largely uncharacterized. The second project involves bioinformatics and genomics approaches to investigate the high salinity tolerance of wild tomato species relative to commercial tomato varieties.

Selected Publications

  • Byrt CS, Xu B, Krishnan M, Lightfoot DJ, Athman A, Jacobs AK, Watson-Haigh NS, Munns R, Tester M and Gilliham M (2014). The Na+ transporter, TaHKT1;5-D, limits shoot Na+ accumulation in bread wheat. Plant Journal 80 (3), 516-526.
  • Lightfoot DJ, Timmis JN and Orford SJ (2013). Identification and characterisation of cotton boll wall-specific promoters for future transgenic cotton varieties. Plant Molecular Biology Reporter 31 (1), 174-184.
  • Lightfoot DJ and Able AJ (2010). Growth of Pyrenophora teres in planta during barley net blotch disease. Australasian Plant Pathology 39 (6), 499–507.
  • Lightfoot DJ, Boettcher A, Little A, Shirley N and Able AJ (2008). Identification and characterisation of barley (Hordeum vulgare) Respiratory Burst Oxidase Homologue family members. Functional Plant Biology 35 (5), 347-359.
  • Lightfoot DJ, Malone KM, Timmis JN and Orford SJ (2007). Evidence for alternative splicing of MADS-box transcripts in developing cotton fibre cells. Molecular Genetics and Genomics 279 (1), 75-85.


  • 2007 PhD, Discipline of Genetics (School of Molecular and Biomedical Science) at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2002 BSc (Hons), Discipline of Genetics (School of Molecular and Biomedical Science) at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

Professional Profile

  • 2014-current: Research Scientist, Centre for Desert Agriculture, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2012-2014: Postdoctoral Researcher, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Research, The University of Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2010-2012: Postdoctoral Researcher, The Plant Accelerator, The University of Adelaide, Australia.
  • 2007-2009: Postdoctoral Researcher, The School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Australia.

Research Interests Keywords

Plant molecular biology Bioinformatics Plant physiology Genomics