Associate Professor Paul Ebert


School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 52973


Molecular mechanisms of phosphine resistance

Genetic mapping of oxidative stress resistance genes. The fumigant, phosphine, disrupts oxidative metabolism, resulting in the production of reactive oxygen intermediates. This causes the premature ageing and death of targeted pests. Insect pests of stored grain in Australia now exhibit resistance to phosphine at levels more than 200 times the normal lethal dose.

We are using genetic mapping to clone the genes responsible for phosphine resistance in the Lesser Grain Borer.We are also using functional genomics of the model organisms C. elegans to understand the molecular basis of phosphine actionOur genetic studies have recently shown that resistance to phosphine is associated with an extension of lifespan

Research Interests

  • Metabolic toxicology - fumigant toxicology
    I am interested in energy metabolism and mitochondrial function. My work is based around the toxicology of the agricultural fumigant, phosphine. The phosphine resistance gene, dld, not only results in phosphine resistance, but also modulates cellular energy metabolism.
  • Fumigant synergists - gasotransmitters
    To better understand phosphine toxicity and how the toxicity might be synergistically enhanced to improve pest control, we are comparing and contrasting phosphine toxicology with he toxicology of endogenous gasotransmitter signalling molecules.
  • Metabolic toxicology - ageing and diseases of ageing
    The dld gene not only influences phosphine resistance, but also can extend lifespan and protect against pathology in an animal model of Alzheimer's disease.
  • A phenotype first model to explain the evolution of phosphine resistance
    The evolution of resistance to agricultural pesticides poses a serious risk to global food security. Our observations regarding phosphine resistance has led us to a model by which a phenotype (e.g. resistance) is first created epigenetically and only subsequently stabilised via genetic change.

Research Impacts

Our discovery of the economically important phosphine resistance gene has allowed us to characterise resistance across Australia and India. It is now being use to monitor resistance management styrategies in collaboration with major grain handling companies to improve commercial practice in Australia and India. This is the subject of the current Australia-India AISRF project on which I am the UQ lead investigator. We have also used the gene marker to characterise resistance in Vietnam, China, Turkey. Others have used our work to characterise resistance in the USA and Brazil.

We have also sought to use our understanding of how phosphine works to identify synergistic gases that might be used to extend the useful life of phosphine and a grain fumigant. We have discovered that the gasotransmitters, hydrogen sulfide and carbonyl sulfide are potent synergists of phosphine toxicity. This work was supported by an ARC Discovery grant and a research grant from the Plant Biosecurity CRC.

We have also discovered the the phosphine resistance gene, dld, is a lifespan extending factor. Interestingly, it also protects against pathology in a C. elegans model of Alzheimer's disease, a serious ageing associated disease. Alzheimer's disease is a major disease of global importance with huge economic ramifications due to the level of care required by people who suffer from dementia. Our system allows us to explore the metabolic basis of the disease, an aspect that has until recently been largely neglected.


  • PhD, Washington State U (WSU)
  • MSc, U Washington (UW)
  • BSc, UC Riverside (UCR)


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Available Projects

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Featured Publications

Book Chapter

  • Schlipalius, D., Ebert, P. R. and Hunt, G. J. (2008). Honeybee. Genome mapping and genomics in arthropods. (pp. 1-16) edited by Wayne Hunter and Chittaranjan Kole.Berlin, Germany: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-73833-6_1

  • An, Gynheung, Ebert, Paul R., Mitra, Amitava and Ha, Sam B. (1989). Binary vectors. Plant molecular biology manual. (pp. 29-47) edited by .Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-94-009-0951-9_3

  • An, Gynheung, Ebert, Paul R., Mitra, Amitava and Ha, Sam B. (1988). Binary vectors. Plant molecular biology manual. (pp. 45-63) edited by .Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Edited Outputs

  • P. R. Ebert ed. (2004). Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nutrition Society of Australia 28th Annual Scientific Meeting, Brisbane Convention Centre, Brisbane, 11-13 August.Australia :H E C Press.

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.