Dr Zhenhua Liu

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It has been estimated that plants can produce over 1 million specialized metabolites, but we know less than 0.1 % of their biosynthetic pathways. Creative methods are eminently needed to look under the iceberg of largely untapped biosynthetic pathways. As a post-doc from Anne Osbourn group at John Innes Centre, I am employing multidisciplinary approaches across bioinformatics, genetics, and chemistry, to comprehensively understand how and why plants produce this hallmark of specialized metabolites.

I am currently focusing on plants from the Brassicaceae family and systematically studying the function, evolution and biosynthesis of triterpenes from this family. I am in particular interested in pathways encoded by gene clusters. It holds great potential to mine more and novel biosynthetic pathways efficiently. However, how and why plants have evolved BGCs is still a mystery. We are aiming to gain the first understanding of their assembly, patterns of evolution and common features in a systematic fashion. This knowledge can then be used as a template guiding the research of BGCs in other types of compounds and plant families.         

 Figure legend: Multidisciplinary approaches to discover new pathways and novel natural compounds. We are using combination of bioinformatics, genetics and chemistry in attempt to decode and recode the largely untapped plant specialized metabolism

Figure legend: Multidisciplinary approaches to discover new pathways and novel natural compounds. We are using combination of bioinformatics, genetics and chemistry in attempt to decode and recode the largely untapped plant specialized metabolism