School of
Integrative Biology
Elizabeth "Lisa" Ainsworth

147 ERML
Office: 217-265-9887

Mail: 1201 W. Gregory Dr. Urbana, IL. 61801
Lab Page

Elizabeth "Lisa" Ainsworth
Adjunct Professor - Plant Biology


B.S. University of California at Los Angeles
Ph.D. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Humboldt Fellow, Juelich Research Center, Juelich, Germany

Plant physiological and molecular responses to global change, photosynthesis and carbohydrate metabolism

Global changes in climate and atmospheric composition pose significant challenges to maintaining and improving future agricultural production and global food supply. Two global changes that directly affect crop productivity are rising carbon dioxide concentration and rising tropospheric ozone concentration. While elevated carbon dioxide stimulates photosynthesis and productivity of crops, rising tropospheric ozone negatively impacts photosynthesis and subsequent growth and production. The focus of my research is to understand and integrate the genetic, molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to global change. This fundamental understanding is critical for identifying targets for breeding and biotechnology that may be exploited to maximize crop yields and plant productivity in the coming decades. As the population grows and the climate becomes more variable over this century, addressing these research challenges will be ever more important. We aim to better understand and address crop responses to global climate change by using meta-analyses to quantify the responses of plants to climate change factors, developing high-throughput tools for investigating molecular, biochemical and physiological responses of plants to climate change, and identifying the genes and loci underpinning intraspecific variation in the response of species to climate change. The ultimate aim of my research is to provide fundamental knowledge that will enable crop production to be maximized in a future world of elevated carbon dioxide concentration, elevated ozone concentration, higher temperatures and greater probability of drought stress.


2019 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences
2018 Presidential Award, Crop Science Society of America
2016, 2017 Thomson Reuters/Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers List
2016 Service Recognition Award, College of ACES, UIUC
2015 USDA ARS Outreach, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Award
2012 University Scholar, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2012 Charles Albert Shull Award, American Society of Plant Biologists
2011 President’s Medal, Society for Experimental Biology
2011-2012 I.C. Gunsalus Scholar, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, UIUC
2009 USDA ARS Midwest Area Early Career Research Scientist of the Year Award

Representative Publications

Li S, Courbet G, Ourry A, Ainsworth EA (2019) Elevated ozone concentration reduces photosynthetic carbon gain but does not alter leaf structural traits, nutrient composition or whole plant biomass in switchgrass. Plants 8, 85.

Wedow JM, Yendrek CR, Mello TR, Creste S, Martinez CA, Ainsworth EA (2019) Metabolite and transcript profiling of Guinea grass (Panicum maximum Jacq) response to elevated [CO2] and temperature. Metabolomics 15:51.

Ainsworth EA, Lemonnier P, Wedow JM (2019) The influence of rising tropospheric carbon dioxide and ozone on plant productivity. Plant Biology, DOI:10.1111/plb.12973.

Bishop KA*, Lemonnier P*, Quebedeaux JC, Montes CM, Leakey ADB, Ainsworth EA (2018) Similar photosynthetic response to elevated carbon dioxide concentration in species with different phloem loading strategies. Photosynthesis Research 137, 453–464.

Ainsworth EA (2017) Understanding and improving global crop response to ozone pollution. Plant Journal 90: 886-897.

Yendrek CR, Tomaz T, Montes CM, Cao Y, Morse AM, Brown PJ, McIntyre LM, Leakey ADB, Ainsworth EA (2017) High-throughput phenotyping of maize leaf physiological and biochemical traits using hyperspectral reflectance. Plant Physiology 173: 614-626.

Sanz-Sáez A, Koester RP, Rosenthal DM, Montes CM, Ort DR, Ainsworth EA (2017) Leaf and canopy scale drivers of genotypic variation in soybean response to elevated carbon dioxide concentration. Global Change Biology 23: 3908-3920.

Koester RP, Nohl BM, Diers BW, Ainsworth EA (2016) Has photosynthetic capacity increased with 80 years of soybean breeding? An examination of historical soybean cultivars. Plant, Cell & Environment 39: 1058-1067.

McGrath JM, Betzelberger AM, Wang S, Shook E, Zhu X-G, Long SP, Ainsworth EA (2015) An analysis of ozone damage to historical maize and soybean yields in the United States. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112: 14390-14395.

Ainsworth EA, Yendrek CR, Sitch S, Collins WJ, Emberson LD (2012) The effects of tropospheric ozone on net primary production and implications for climate change. Annual Review of Plant Biology 63: 637-661.

Ainsworth EA (2008) Rice production in a changing climate: A meta-analysis of responses to elevated carbon dioxide and elevated ozone concentration. Global Change Biology 14: 1642-1650

Ainsworth EA, Gillespie KM (2007) Estimation of total phenolic content and other oxidation substrates in plant tissues using Folin-Ciocalteu reagent. Nature Protocols 2: 875-877

Ainsworth EA, Rogers A (2007) The response of photosynthesis and stomatal conductance to rising [CO2]: Mechanisms and environmental interactions. Plant, Cell & Environment 30: 258-270