Chunliu Zhuo | Department of Biological Sciences

Chunliu Zhuo

Postdoctoral Research Associate
SRB 122
Department of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203

I am a postdoc working with Dr. Richard Dixon on the mechanisms underlying the biosynthesis of catechyl lignin (C-lignin). C-lignin has favorable properties for conversion to high value chemicals and materials, but it only exists in the seed coats of several plants. To generate high volume sources of C-lignin, I study the biosynthesis of C-lignin in the seed coat of Cleome hassleriana (Cleome), where lignin switches from heterogeneous classical lignin to homogeneous linear C-lignin. I use a comprehensive approach of -omics, kinetic assays and genetic studies, and collaborate with scientists in different fields. My work provides gene tools for C-lignin engineering, also offers new perspectives to understand the classical lignin biosynthesis. Prior this position, I started my research journey working on cold-induced genes from a native forage Medicago falcata, which has great tolerance to cold and drought. Aiming to use these cold-induced genes to enhance cold tolerance in tropical forage Stylosanthes guianensis, I coupled physiological and biochemical approaches with genetic studies to address the roles these genes play in plant resilience against abiotic stress. Biochemistry and molecular biology are keys to understanding plant sciences. Here I am unlocking the mysteries of nature and hope that will benefit humans and environment.


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Chunliu Zhuo obtained her B.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Sciences from the South China Agricultural University. During her sophomore summer, she started research as Assistant and joined Dr. Zhenfei Guo Lab that uses traditional and molecular breeding to enhance resistance of turf grasses and forage crops to abiotic stresses. Specifically, she participated in projects on enhancing cold tolerance of tropical forage. During her doctoral studies, she received a fellowship for research abroad and joined Dr. Richard Dixon Lab as a Visiting Researcher. Following her interest in sustainable bioenergy crops, Dr. Zhuo joined Dixon Lab as Postdoctoral Research Associate in Spring 2016. Her research focuses on biosynthesis of C-lignin that has promising properties for production of carbon fibers and high value chemicals. Her work provides a gene toolkit for introducing C-lignin in biomass crops.


Biochemistry, Molecular biology, Metabolic engineering, Plant natural products, Environmental stress


Zhuo, C., Wang, X., Docampo-Palacios, M., Sanders, B.C., Engle, N.L., Tschaplinski, T.J., Hendry, J.I., Marinas, C.D., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2022) Developmental changes in lignin composition are driven by both monolignol supply and laccase specificity. Science Advances. 8(10): eabm8145.

Wang, X. †, Zhuo, C. †, Xiao, X., Wang, X., Docampo-Palacios, M., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2020) Substrate specificity of LACCASE 8 facilitates polymerization of caffeyl alcohol for C-lignin biosynthesis in the seed coat of Cleome hassleriana. Plant Cell. 32(12): 3825-3845. († These authors contributed equally to this work.)

Zhuo, C., Rao, X., Azad, R., Pandey, R., Xiao, X., Harkelroad, A., Wang, X., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2019) Enzymatic basis for C-lignin monomer biosynthesis in the seed coat of Cleome hassleriana. Plant Journal. 99(3): 506-520.

Zhuo, C., Liang, L., Zhao, Y., Guo, Z. and Lu, S. (2018) A cold responsive ethylene responsive factor from Medicago falcata confers cold tolerance by up-regulation of polyamine turnover, antioxidant protection, and proline accumulation. Plant, Cell & Environment. 41(9): 2021-2032.

Zhuo, C., Wang, T., Guo, Z. and Lu, S. (2016) Overexpression of MfPIP2-7 from Medicago falcata promotes cold tolerance and growth under NO3- deficiency in transgenic tobacco plants. BMC Plant Biology. 16(1):138.

Zhuo, C.†, Wang, T.†, Lu, S., Zhao, Y., Li, X. and Guo, Z. (2013) A cold responsive galactinol synthase gene from Medicago falcata (MfGolS1) is induced by myo-inositol and confers multiple tolerances to abiotic stresses. Physiologia Plantarum. 149(1): 67-78.


Dixon, R.A., Chen, F. and Zhuo, C. (2020) Recombinant LAC polynucleotides and uses thereof to increase production of C-lignin in plants. Appreciation No. 63/114,834. U.S.A.

Guo, Z. and Zhuo, C. (2014) Sequence and application of a chloroplast cold responsive protein from Medicago falcata (MfcpCOR14). Patent No. ZL 2013 1 0064020.0. China