SynBio talks at the Plant Biology 2022 Worldwide Summit | July 9-13, 2022

The first concurrent session of ASPB Plant Biology 2022 meeting on “Living Factories for Plant-Based Products” will be chaired by Catalin Voiniciuc and feature a diverse panel of speakers, contributing synbio insights from all career stages.

Invited Speakers:

  • Emma Walker (Western University)
  • Jaya Joshi (Concordia University)
  • Britney Moss (Whitman College)
  • Steven Burgess (University of Illinois)
  • Dae-Kyun Ro (University of Calgary)

Plants and microorganisms produce a wide range of products that are at the cornerstone of our lives, ranging from small molecules with therapeutic applications to polymers for food, feed, biomaterials, biofuels or carbon sequestration. Although some cells accumulate compounds that are of great industrial interest, their biosynthetic pathways have been historically challenging to elucidate and modify. Leveraging advances in synthetic biology, plant metabolism can now be tuned with unprecedented fidelity and speed.  Moreover, a variety of surrogate hosts such as yeast have become instrumental to reconstitute plant natural product and signaling pathways and to engineer new derivatives. These enabling technologies are providing answers to fundamental questions about biology and open new avenues for the bioengineering of plant-based molecules and materials.

We hope that you can join us virtually or in person in Portland, Oregon.

Conference website:

Live on bioRxiv: how IQD, KLCR and TRM proteins guide cellulose distribution via microtubules

In our new pre-print, we explore two outstanding questions that have been challenging to address in plant cells: What proteins control the microtubule cytoskeleton and how do they function together to influence the polarized deposition of complex polysaccharides in the cell wall?

Using Arabidopsis seed coat epidermal cells as a genetic model system, we discovered that IQ67 DOMAIN 9 (IQD9) and KINESIN LIGHT CHAIN-RELATED 1 (KLCR1) have overlapping roles in microtubule organization and cellulose deposition with the TONNEAU1 (TON1) RECRUITING MOTIF 4 (TRM4) protein we previously identified (Yang et al., 2019; New Phytologist).

Our results demonstrate that IQD9, KLCR1 and TRM4 are microtubule-associated proteins that modulate seed mucilage architecture by supporting cellulose synthase movement. This study provides the first direct evidence that members of these three families have overlapping roles in cell wall biosynthesis.


Yang B, Stamm G, Bürstenbinder K*, Voiniciuc C*. Microtubule-associated IQD9 guides cellulose synthase velocity to shape seed mucilage. bioRxiv:

Yang et al., 2019; New Phytologist:

Designer Glycans students shine as summer ends

We are proud to highlight some of the some of our students’ accomplishments this summer.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

Our glycan designers win two student prizes!

• At the start of July, Annika Grieß-Osowski and Madalen Robert received awards for their presentations (poster and talk, respectively) at the 7th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology (PCWB2021) organized remotely from Japan. Congratulations to both PhD students for winning these highly competitive prizes! See IPB Halle press release for details.

• Madalen also presented her latest findings in the Voiniciuc lab at the 2021 German Conference on Synthetic Biology (GCSB). Many thanks to Madalen for stepping in to deliver this selected talk at relatively short notice.

• Stefanie Clauss wrote a very good MSc thesis and successfully defended it on September 20th. Her research was on the “Modulation of Hemicellulose Synthesis by Arabidopsis GT106 Proteins”. We are grateful to Prof. Dr. Steffen Abel for co-reviewing the thesis and Prof. Dr. Milton T. Stubbs for chairing the final examination.

• This week, Madalen was elected to serve as a PhD student representative. Madalen joins Annika (vice-chair of the Staff Council) in providing service to IPB Halle. Well done and we wish you a successful year!

Designer Glycans, live at PCWB2021

The Designer Glycans lab is represented by four members (Catalin, Annika, Bo, and Madalen) at the 7th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology (PCWB2021). Originally scheduled to take place in Sapporo, Japan last year, this meeting is now in a digital format to accommodate a global audience from June 27 to July 1, 2021.

We are happy to see many international colleagues from the plant cell wall biology field and present our latest unpublished results in two posters (Bo and Annika) and one talk (Madalen) during this exciting meeting.

Annika presents our latest finding on the biodiversity of heteromannan-producing enzymes from across the plant kingdom.

To prioritize enzymes to be characterized in planta, Annika is leveraging the power of our yeast expression system for heteromannan production: and

Madalen will talk about the modular engineering of cellulose-synthase like enzymes and the development of new carbohydrate-binding probes for non-invasive heteromannan detection.

Novel probes are required to monitor the dynamics of plant polysaccharides in a high-throughput. Limitations of current tools were discussed in this review:

Bo present novel microtubule-related players that modulate of cellulose deposition around the surface of Arabidopsis seeds. This projects stems from a collaboration with Katharina Bürstenbinder at IPB Halle.

The new mutants are reminiscent of the published trm4 seed phenotypes, which Bo and Catalin previously worked on:

We will look forward to many engaging discussions during PCWB2021.

Building modular hemicellulose synthases, now out in Biotechnology for Biofuels

We are happy to announce the publication of our work on modular hemicellulose production in Biotechnology for Biofuels, a leading (open-access!) journal for advancing the biological production of fuels, chemicals, and biomaterials. Here, we describe how enzymes from the cellulose synthase-like superfamily (found throughout the plant kingdom) can be assembled as modular parts (akin to LEGO bricks) to modulate their function and effects on eukaryotic cell growth.

Fig. 1


Robert, M., Waldhauer, J., Stritt, F. et al. Modular biosynthesis of plant hemicellulose and its impact on yeast cells. Biotechnol Biofuels 14, 140 (2021).

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. 

Previously the article was available on bioRxiv preprint server: