Toni M. Kutchan, PhD

Oliver M. Langenberg Distinguished Investigator
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Honorary Adjunct Professor

Plant and Microbial Biosciences Program

  • 314-587-1473

  • 314-587-1475

  • 314-587-1573

  • Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 North Warson Rd.



  • alkaloids, biochemistry, biosynthesis, enzymology, medicinal plants, transcriptome sequencing

  • Plant natural product biosynthesis and metabolic engineering of medicinal plants

Research Abstract:

Pathways to Natural Products -
The lab investigates how plants make natural products. These chemicals frequently are used as medicines, either as pure compounds by pharmaceutical industry, or as mixtures in traditional medicines. Selected natural products are currently being investigated in the laboratory in mature plants and in tissue and cell culture. We participate in national and international projects that involve deep transcriptome sequencing of medicinal plants (,,, using next generation sequencing technologies and in developing bioinformatic approaches to interrogating these datasets for biochemical pathway genes. This research is aimed at understanding the formation of medicinal compounds in selected plants at the enzyme and gene levels, which is central to improving the production of pharmaceuticals either in planta or in a heterologous host such as yeast or bacteria.

Synthetic Biology Platforms in Camelina Seed -
We are developing a synthetic biology platform in an oilseed. Camelina sativa (camelina) is an emerging low-input nonfoodstuff Brassicaceae oilseed crop that grows on marginal land or can be used as a rotation crop on fallow land. Historically cultivated in Europe, it is now grown in northwestern regions of the United States and Canada and is considered a practical agronomic oilseed crop. Camelina is genetically similar to the model dicot Arabidopsis thaliana and is likewise genetically transformed by the facile floral dip method. Introduction of trait genes into camelina can be achieved with limited time and resource investment, making this plant an attractive engineering platform for novel seed composition. We propose that camelina oilseed can be engineered to produce and accumulate a vast array of natural products, including cyclic hydrocarbons and medicinals.

Selected Publications:

Guennewich N, Higashi Y, Choi KB, Feng X, Schmidt J and Kutchan TM (2013). A Diterpene Synthase from the Clary Sage Salvia sclarea Catalyzes the hydration and cyclization of geranylgeranyl diphosphate. Phytochemistry, 91: 93-99. PMID: 22959531

Nualkaew N, Guennewich N, Springob K, Klamrak A, De-Eknamkul W and Kutchan TM (2013). Molecular Cloning and Catalytic Activity of a Membrane-Bound Prenyl Diphosphate Phosphatase from Croton stellatopilosus Ohba. Phytochemistry, 91: 140-147. PMID: 23092673

Johnson MTJ, Tian Z, Carpenter EJ, Burris JN, Carrigan C, Chase M, Clarke N, Covshoff S, dePamphilis, C.W., Edger, P., Goh, F., Graham, S., Hibberd, J., Jordan, I., Greiner, S., Kutchan, TM, Leebens-Mack J, Melkonian M, Miles N, Myburg H, Pires C, Rolf M, Sage R, Soltis D, Soltis P, Stevenson D, Stewart Jr, CN, Surek B, Villarreal JC, Wu X, Zhang Y, Deyholos MK, Wong GK-S (2012). Isolating total RNA and predicting the success of sequencing phylogenetically diverse plant transcriptomes. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50226. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050226. PMCID: PMC3504007

Gesell A, Diaz Chavez ML, Kramell R, Piotrowski M, Macheroux P, Kutchan TM (2011). Heterologous expression of two FAD-dependent oxidases with (S)-tetrahydroprotoberberine oxidase activity from Argemone mexicana and Berberis wilsoniae in insect cells. Planta, 233: 1185-1197. PMID: 21327819

Higashi Y, Kutchan TM, Smith TJ (2011). The atomic structure of salutaridine reductase from the opium poppy Papaver somniferum. J Biol Chem, 286: 6532-6541. PMCID: PMC3057844

Higashi Y, Smith TJ, Jez JM, Kutchan TM (2010). Crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of salutaridine reductase from Papaver somniferum. Acta Crystallogr Sect F Struct Biol Cryst Commun, F66: 163-166. PMCID: PMC2815683

Grobe N, Lamshoeft M, Orth RG, Draeger B, Kutchan TM, Zenk MH, Spiteller M (2010). Urinary excretion of morphine and biosynthetic precursors in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 107: 8147–8152. PMCID: PMC2889579

Nomura T, Kutchan TM (2010). Three new O-methyltransferases are sufficient for all O-methylation reactions of Ipecac alkaloid biosynthesis in root culture of Psychotria ipecacuanha. J Biol Chem, 285: 7722-7738. PMCID: PMC2844217

Gesell A, Rolf M, Diaz Chavez ML, Huang F-C, Ziegler J, Kutchan, TM (2009). CYP719B1 is salutaridine synthase, the phenol-coupling enzyme of morphine biosynthesis in opium poppy. J Biol Chem, 284: 24432-24442. PMCID: PMC2782036

Grobe N, Zhang B, Fisinger U, Kutchan TM, Zenk MH, Guengerich FP (2009). Mammalian cytochrome P450 enzymes catalyze the phenol-coupling step in endogenous morphine biosynthesis. J Biol Chem, 284: 24425-24431. PMCID: PMC2782035

Last Updated: 9/20/2013 9:36:05 AM

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