University of Calgary

Dae-Kyun Ro

  • Professor
  • Biochemistry

Currently Teaching

Research Interests

Broad research interest-
My research focuses on metabolic and chemical biology in plants and microbes. Our society is heavily dependent on the cost-effective and sustainable supplies of pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, industrial chemicals, and bio-fuels, derived from various plants and microbes. In-depth understanding of their biosynthesis and regulation in native hosts, together with synthetic metabolic redesign in heterologous organisms, can allow us to produce a diverse array of chemicals for human health and industrial uses. However, biosynthetic mechanism and metabolic regulation of many naturally occurring chemicals are still not fully understood. We use interdisciplinary and integrative research approaches, such as molecular genetics, biochemical, cell biological, and genomics tools, to advance our knowledge of metabolic and chemical biology in plants and microbes. 

Specific research activities in my lab are as follows.
1. Chemical diversity and evolution of sesquiterpene lactone in lettuce, sunflower, and related Asteraceae (Compositae) plants. 
2. Natural rubber biosynthesis in lettuce (Latuca sativa)
3. Comparative genomics of proanthcyanidin biosynthesis in pea (Pisum sativum) and Arabidopsis.
4. Functional transcriptomics of medicinal plants and implementation of synthetic metabolism in microbe and plant by various biotechnological tools.

Graduate Students

Joseph Utomo             Ph.D. student

Connor Hodgins         Ph.D. student

Kayla Dias                  Ph.D. student

Sean Baek                   M.Sc. student

Iris Ngo                       M.Sc. student



Representative Publications

  • Lee, AR, Kwon M, Kang MK, Kim J, Kim SU, Ro DK (2019) Increased sesqui-and triterpene production by co-expression of HMG-CoA reductase and biotin carboxyl carrier protein in tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana). Metabolic Engineering 52, 20-28
  • Lakusta AM, Kwon M, Kwon EJG, Stonebloom S, Scheller HV, RO DK (2019) Molecular studies of the protein complexes involving cis-prenyltransferase in guayule (Parthenium argentatum), an alternative rubber-producing plant. Frontiers in Plant Science 10   
  • Zhou Y, Ma Y, Zeng J, Duan L,, Xue X, Wang H, Lin T, Liu Z, Zeng K, Zhong Y, Zhang S, Hu Q, Liu M, Zhang H, Reed J, Moses T, Liu X, Huang P, Qing Z, Liu X, Tu P, Kuang H, Zhang Z, Osbourn A, Ro DK, Shang Y, Huang S (2016) Convergence and divergence of bitterness biosynthesis and regulation in Cucurbitaceae. Nature Plants 2:16183

  • Qu Y, Chakrabarty R, Tran HT, Kwon EJG, Kwon M, Nguyen TD, Ro DK (2015) A lettuce (Lactuca sativa) homolog of human Nogo-B receptor interacts with cis-prenyltransferase and is necessary for natural rubber biosynthesis. J. Biol. Chem. 290:1898-1914

  • Pickel, B., Drew, D.P., Manzcak, T., Weitzel, C., Simonsen, H.T., and Ro, D.K. (2012) Identification and characterization of a kunzeaol synthase from Thapsia garganica: Implications for the biosynthesis of the pharmaceutical thapsigargin. Biochem. J. 448:261-271

  • Ikezawa, N., Göpfert, J.C., Nguyen, D.T., Kim, S.U., Paul E. O’Maille, Spring O., and Ro, D.K. Lettuce costunolide synthase (CYP71BL2) and its homolog (CYP71BL1) from sunflower catalyze distinct regio- and stereoselective hydroxylations in sesquiterpene lactone metabolism. (2011) J. Biol. Chem. 286:21601-21611

  • Barriuso, J., Nguyen, D.T., Li, J., Roberts, J., MacNevin, G., Chaytor, J. L., Marcus, S., Vederas, J., Ro, D.K. Double oxidation of the cyclic nonaketide dihydromonacolin L to monacolin J by a single cytochrome P450 monooxygenase, LovA. (2011) J. Am. Chem. Soc. 133: 8078-8081

  • Nguyen, D.T., Göpfert, J.C., Ikezawa, N., MacNevin, G., Kathiresan, M., Conrad , J., Spring, O. and Ro, D.K. Biochemical Conservation and Evolution of Germacrene A Oxidase in Asteraceae (2010) J. Biol. Chem.285:16588-16598.

  • Chang, M.C.Y., Eachus, R.A., Trieu, W., Ro, D.K. and Keasling J.D. (2007) Engineering Escherichia coli for production of functionalized terpenoids using plant P450s. Nature Chem. Biol. 3: 274-277.

  • Ro, D.K., Paradise, E.M., Ouellet, M., Fisher, K.J., Newman, K.L., Ndungu, J.M., Chang, M.C.Y., Ham, T.S., Eachus, R.A., Ho, K.A., Shiba, Y., Sarpong, R., Keasling, J.D. (2006) Production of the anti-malarial drug precursor artemisinic acid in engineered yeast. Nature. 440: 940-943

  • Ro, D.K., Arimura, G.I., Lau, S, Piers, E., and Bohlmann, J. (2005) Loblolly pine abietadienol/abietadienal oxidase PtAO (CYP720B1) is a multi-functional, multi-substrate cytochrome P450 monooxygenase. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 102: 8060-8065


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