It has been estimated that plants can produce over 1 million small molecules, but we know less than 0.1 % of their biosynthetic pathways.
Creative methods are needed to look under the iceberg of largely untapped biosynthetic pathways.
Zhenhua employs a multidisciplinary approaches across bioinformatics, genetics, and chemistry, to comprehensively understand how and why plants produce this hallmark of specialized metabolites.
Currently work is focused on plants from the Brassicaceae family and systematically studying the function, evolution and biosynthesis of triterpenes from this family.
Zhenhua is particular interested in pathways encoded by biosynthetic gene clusters (BGCs). It holds great potential to mine more and novel biosynthetic pathways efficiently. However, how and why plants have evolved BGCs is still a mystery.
The lab aim understand their assembly, patterns of evolution and common features in a systematic fashion. This knowledge can then be used as a template to guide the research of BGCs in other compounds and diverse plant families.