Lab News

10/10/2022 Congratulations to Qilong and Wei for their new paper on European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

4/21/2021 Congratulation to Ruben, Kaimin, and Sami for their new paper on ACS Catalysis.

9/20/2019 Congratulations to Dr. Kaimin Jia for her first company job in San Francisco! We will miss you.

8/1/2018 Our lab is awarded a three-year NSF grant to study bacterial DyPs for enhanced lignin degradation.

5/1/2016 Our lab is awarded a five-year NIH R01 grant to study PHA biosynthesis, regulation, and utilization.

8/1/2016 Our lab acquires an UPLC-HRMS system thanks to an industrial academic excellence award from Waters.

2/1/2017 Congratulations to Ruben to win the Excellence Poster Award in 2017 K-INBRE annual conference.

3/1/2017 Congratulations to Dr. Gaochao Huang to receive NIH K-INBRE postdoctoral fellowship.

Research Overview

Using synthetic organic chemistry and molecular biology as major tools to study and manipulate biologically important enzymes/proteins. Currently, I have three projects in my lab.

  1. Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biosynthesis, regulation, and utilization.
    PHAs are carbon storage polymers produced by a variety of bacteria under conditions that limit nutrients except for carbon. The environmentally friendly PHA bioplastics are considered as an ideal alternative to petroleum-derived plastics that are non-biodegradable. Our goal is to understand PHA homeostasis at the molecular level such that metabolic- and protein-engineering in bacteria can be performed to produce PHA polymers economically. Moreover, study of PHA production can serve as a paradigm to understand widespread template-independent polymerizations where the mechanism remains enigmatic.
  2. Bacterial enzymes involved in lignin degradation.
    Lignin is a recalcitrant polymer consisting of various phenylpropane-based monomers linked together by C-C and C-O-C bonds, which is the most abundant renewable carbon source on earth next to cellulose. The cost of lignin degradation has been a major indicator for the competitiveness of biofuels vs. petroleum-based gasoline. It is well known that fungus contains a series of redox metalloenzymes that can efficiently degrade lignin. However, until now they have not been used at industrial scales due to difficulties in modulation of fungal genetics and production of fungal proteins. Therefore, there is a paradigm shift to seek for bacterial enzymes for lignin degradation. Our goal is to identify and develop them into a system that can be used to process lignin degradation economically at large scales.
  3. Protein methyltransferases in epigenetics.
    Methylation is one of commonly observed protein posttranslational modifications that play important roles in signaling network and epigenetic regulation. Defects in the methylation have been linked to various diseases including cancers, neurological disorders, and abnormalities in development. Aside from protein lysine and arginine methyltransferases, a new type of protein methyltransferases, α-N-terminal RCC1 methyltransferases (NRMTs), was recently discovered in eukaryotes and human. Limited study of NRMTs suggests that they may be linked to cancers. Our goal is to identify the processes and/or targets involving NRMT for potential cancer therapy.