Jim Mattsson

Professor, Plant Functional Genomics

Areas of interest

Our research focuses on identifying genotypes and genes that can be used to mitigate the effects of climate change on both agricultural crops and wild forest tree species. An international long-term goal is to increase the photosynthetic yield and drought tolerance in rice by developing varieties with C4 photosynthesis traits. We are researching the genetic basis of vein formation with the goal of increasing the number of veins in rice leaves, needed for C4 anatomy. We have screened for hybrid poplar variants that are drought resistant and therefore suitable for planting in regions of the Canadian Prairies where drought and heat spells are increasingly severe. Similarly, we are collaborating with forest tree geneticists in the use of family screens and transcriptomics technologies to identify provenances, gene sets and natural genetic variants towards improving drought tolerance in ponderosa pine and western redcedar. Ponderosa pine is a naturally drought resistant species, but nevertheless under threat in parts of the increasingly dry and hot interior of British Columbia (BC). Western redcedar is a keystone species in coastal BC but faces threats in form of longer summer drought spells, deer and elk browsing of planted seedlings as well as lumber volume losses due to heartwood rot and disappearing old growth trees. We have identified gene sets involved in production of metabolites that deter browsing of seedlings and fungal decay of wood. Among them, we have identified the specific mono, sesqui and diterpenes produced by recombinant protein in vitro. Here the longer-term goal is to provide target genes and gene variants that can be used in marker-assisted selection for trees that will develop rot resistant heartwood – a task that is otherwise intractable due to the 20-30 years of growth before these compounds accumulate at high levels in wood. Yellow cedar trees compete well with other species at wet and higher altitude sites and produce a wood unmatched by other Canadian softwood species. Yellow cedar trees are however dying in large number along the Alaskan and BC coast. Yellow cedar decline (YCD) has been attributed to climate warming, resulting in premature snow melt and soil warming, that paradoxically result in death of the shallow roots during spring cold snaps. We are screening for individual trees with roots that have relatively high freezing tolerance that in turn can be used as parents to generate new lines with superior freezing tolerance, with the long-term goal of reforesting YCD areas. Find our publications on Google Scholar. Please contact me if you want more information and if you are considering a graduate research project in this laboratory.


  • BSc, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • PhD, Uppsala University, Sweden



Future courses may be subject to change.