Dr. Juergen Ehlting

Dr. Juergen Ehlting
Director and Associate Professor
Centre for Forest Biology, Biology

MSc, PhD (Cologne)

Area of expertise

Functional genomics of plant natural product metabolism


  • functional genomics of plant natural product metabolism


  • BIOL 453 Plant Stress Physiology
  • BIOL 361 Molecular Genetics

See all biology courses

Functional Genomics of Plant Natural Products

ResearcherJuergen Ehlting

Plants produce a vast array of natural products, or secondary metabolites, that fulfill an equally wide range of adaptive functions in plant stress responses and during development. This holds true in particular for long-living trees, which are exposed to ever changing abiotic and biotic stresses throughout their live time.

The elucidation of complete plant genomes (including the poplar tree genome) showed that gene families encoding putative enzymes involved in secondary metabolism are drastically enlarged compared to other eukaryotes. This genomic information, together with large scale gene expression (microarray), protein and metabolite abundance data allows now to apply the tools of functional genomics to elucidate plant natural product pathways.

The shikimate pathway leads to the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids. These are not only important for protein biosynthesis, but these and almost intermediates of the shikimate pathway are precursors for a wide range of natural product. Poplar accumulates large amounts of derivatives of this pathway, namely lignin, salicylates, and hydroxycannamoyl esters. We aim to understand how their biosynthesis is achieved and how carbon flow through the shikimate pathway into the diverse branch pathways is regulated. This research is supported by grants from NSERC and CFI.

We use bioinformatic based approaches to identify candidate genes of interest; these include similarity based and gene co-expression based approaches, such as phylogenetic reconstructions and microarray expression profiling, to dissect gene families and identify candidate genes of interest. These candidate genes are then analyzed using reverse genetics and reverse biochemistry to identify and characterize their biochemical and physiological functions.

These classes of compounds have a large impact on the exploitation capacity of poplar wood for the production of biofuels and we are part of a consortium of researchers –funded by GenomeBC - aiming on a broader scale to optimize poplar as a feedstock for biofuel production.

My group

Sarah Lane (PhD), Bethany Robson (Undergrad), Sarah Keshvani (Undergrad), Julianne Anderson (Undergrad)


YearJournal titleTitleAuthors
2020Forestry: An International Journal of Forest ResearchSwiss needle cast tolerance in British Columbia’s coastal Douglas-fir breeding populationMontwé D, Elder B, Socha P, Wyatt J, Noshad D, Feau N, Hamelin R, Stoehr M, Ehlting J
2019New PhytologistA role for SPEECHLESS in the integration of leaf stomatal patterning with the growth vs disease trade-off in poplarMcKown AD, Klápště J, Guy RD, Corea ORA, Fritsche S, Ehlting J, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD
2019The Plant JournalEvolution of coumaroyl conjugate 3-hydroxylases in land plants: lignin biosynthesis and defenseAlber AV, Renault H, Basilio-Lopes A, Bassard JE, Liu Z, Ullmann P, Lesot A, Bihel F, Schmitt M, Werck-Reichhart D, Ehlting J
2020The Plant JournalDiscovery of salicyl benzoate UDP-glycosyltransferase, a central enzyme in poplar salicinoid phenolic glycoside biosynthesisFellenberg C, Corea O, Lok-Hang Y, Archinuk F, Piirtola E-M, Gordon H, Reichelt M, Brandt W, Wulff J, Ehlting J, Constabel CP
2018Journal of Theoretical BiologyThe regulatory role of shikimate in plant phenylalanine metabolismZ.P.Adams, J. Ehlting, R. Edwards
2017The Arbutus ReviewCan cold brew coffee be convenient? A pilot study for caffeine content in cold brew coffee concentrate using High Performance Liquid Chromatography.Lane S, Palmer J, Christie BR, Ehlting J, Le CH
2016Plant ReproductionA transcriptomic resource for Douglas-fir seed development and analysis of transcription during late megagametophyte developmentLittle SA, Boyes IG, Donaleshen K, von Aderkas P, Ehlting, J
2015PLOS ONEEvolutionary Quantitative Genomics of Populus trichocarpa.Porth I, Klápšte J, McKown AD, La Mantia J, Guy RD, Ingvarsson PK, Hamelin R, Mansfield SD, Ehlting J, Douglas CJ, El-Kassaby YA
2014BMC Evolutionary BiologyEvolutionary classification of ammonium, nitrate, and peptide transporters in land plants.von Wittgenstein NJB, Le CH, Hawkins BJ, Ehlting J
2014The New PhytologistGenome-wide association implicates numerous genes underlying ecological trait variation in natural populations of Populus trichocarpa.McKown AD, Klápšte J, Guy RD, Geraldes A, Porth I, Hannemann J, Friedmann M, Muchero W, Tuskan GA, Ehlting J, Cronk QC, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD, Douglas CJ
2014The Journal of Biological ChemistryMolecular Characterization of Quinate and Shikimate Metabolism in Populus trichocarpa.Guo J, Carrington Y, Alber A, Ehlting J
2014Frontiers in Plant ScienceTranscriptional responses of Arabidopsis thaliana to chewing and sucking insect herbivores.Appel HM, Fescemeyer H, Ehlting J, Weston D, Rehrig E, Joshi T, Xu D, Bohlmann J, Schultz J
2014Plant PhysiologyThe reductase activity of Arabidopsis caleosin RD20 mediates GA-dependent flowering time, abscisic acid sensitivity and tolerance to oxidative stress.Blée E, Boachon B, Burcklen M, Le Guédard M, Hanano A, Heintz D, Ehlting J, Herrfurth C, Feussner I, Bessoule JJ
2013Molecular Ecology ResourcesA 34K SNP genotyping array for Populus trichocarpa: Design, application to the study of natural populations and transferability to other Populus speciesGeraldes A, DiFazio SP, Slavov GT, Ranjan P, Muchero W, Grassa CJ, Farzaneh N, Porth I, McKown AD, Skyba O, Li E, Fujita M, Pennacchio C, Rokhsar D, Friedmann MC, Wasteneys GO, Guy RD, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD, Cronk QCB, Ehlting J, Douglas CJ,
2013The New PhytologistGenome-wide association mapping for wood characteristics in Populus identifies an array of candidate SNPsPorth I, Klapšte J, Skyba O, Geraldes A, Hannemann J, McKown AD, Guy RD, DiFazio SP, Muchero W, Ranjan P, Tuskan GA, Friedmann MC, Ehlting J, Cronk QCB, El-Kassaby YA, Douglas CJ, Mansfield SD
2013The New PhytologistNetwork analysis reveals the relationship between wood properties, gene expression levels and genotypes of natural Populus trichocarpa accessions.Porth I, Klapšte J, Skyba O, Friedmann MC, Hannemann J, Ehlting J, El-Kassaby YA, Mansfield SD, Douglas CJ
2013The Plant CellGene coexpression analysis reveals complex metabolism of the monoterpene alcohol linalool in Arabidopsis flowers.Ginglinger JF, Boachon B, Höfer R, Paetz C, Köllner TG, Miesch L, Lugan R, Baltenweck R, Mutterer J, Ullmann P, Beran F, Claudel P, Verstappen F, Fischer MJ, Karst F, Bouwmeester H, Miesch M, Schneider B, Gershenzon J, Ehlting J, Werck-Reichhart D
2013Plant PhysiologyExtensive functional pleiotropy of REVOLUTA substantiated through forward genetics.Porth I, Klapšte J, McKown AD, La Mantia J, Hamelin RC, Skyba O, Unda F, Friedmann MC, Cronk QC, Ehlting J, Guy RD, Mansfield SD, El-Kassaby YA, Douglas CJ
2012TreesNet NH4+ and NO3- flux, and expression of NH4+ and NO3- transporters in roots of Picea glauca.Alber A, Ehlting B, Ehlting J, Hawkins BJ and Rennenberg H
2017Nature CommunicationsA phenol-enriched cuticle is ancestral to lignin evolution in land plants.Renault H, Alber A, Horst NA, Basilio Lopes A, Fich EA, Kriegshauser L, Wiedemann G,2 Ullmann P,1 Herrgott L, Erhardt M, Pineau E, Ehlting J, Schmitt M, Rose JKC, Reski R, Werck-Reichhart D.