Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Plants provide some of the most important drugs in current clinical use. It can be challenging to chemically synthesize these drugs or sustainably source them from producer plants. These issues could be alleviated if their biosynthetic genes are engineered into heterologous organisms for large-scale production. I am interested in a) understanding how plants produce these valuable drugs and b) engineering the sustainable production of these drugs into other plants for large-scale production.
A Pathogen-Responsive Gene Cluster for Highly Modified Fatty Acids in Tomato.
2020; 180 (1): 176–87.e19
In response to biotic stress, plants produce suites of highly modified fatty acids that bear unusual chemical functionalities. Despite their chemical complexity and proposed roles in pathogen defense, little is known about the biosynthesis of decorated fatty acids in plants. Falcarindiol is a prototypical acetylenic lipid present in carrot, tomato, and celery that inhibits growth of fungi and human cancer cell lines. Using a combination of untargeted metabolomics and RNA sequencing, we discovered a biosynthetic gene cluster in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) required for falcarindiol production. By reconstituting initial biosynthetic steps in a heterologous host and generating transgenic pathway mutants in tomato, we demonstrate a direct role of the cluster in falcarindiol biosynthesis and resistance to fungal and bacterial pathogens in tomato leaves. This work reveals a mechanism by which plants sculpt their lipid pool in response to pathogens and provides critical insight into the complex biochemistry of alkynyl lipid production.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2019.11.037
View details for PubMedID 31923394