Dr. C. Peter Constabel

Dr. C. Peter Constabel
Professor and Chair
Office: CUN 202c
Area of expertise

Biomedical Research and Genomics | Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology | Forest Biology

Areas of research focus

  • Biochemistry of Plant Defense and Adaptation to Stress
  • Molecular Control of Plant Stress Responses
  • Phenolic Metabolism and Anti-herbivore Defense Chemistry of Trees
  • Forest Tree Genomics
  • Chemical Ecology of Trees and Fruit

My research program aims to understand how plants use biochemistry defend themselves from pests and pathogens, or tolerate other environmental stresses. Plant stress responses are rapid, involve changes in gene expression, and lead to the synthesis of bioactive phytochemicals. My lab works on the regulation and function of plant tannins, and the biosynthesis of other phenolic chemicals found in trees. Forests contain tremendous amounts of these compounds, with important consequences at the ecosystem scale. Tannins are also important for human health, and are found in native berries, nuts and whole foods.

We carry out experiments using poplar trees, which can be genetically transformed and are a model for tree molecular biology. We study how and why trees make such large amounts of tannins and phenolics, how these chemicals help to defend trees, and how their biosynthesis is regulated. In addition, we are working to elucidate novel biochemical pathways in trees, leading to bioactive compounds of potential therapeutic relevance.

C. Peter Constabel's website

Centre for Forest Biology

  • Bio 458 Plant Biochemistry and Biochemical Ecology
  • Bio 366 Plant Physiology
  • FORB 560 Forest Biology Seminar
  • FORB 570 Topics in Forest Biology
Fellenberg C., Corea O, Yan L.-H., Archinuk F., Piirtola E.-M., Gordon H., Reichelt M., Brandt W., Wulff J., Ehlting J., Constabel C.P. 2020Discovery of salicyl benzoate UDP-glycosyltransferase, a central enzyme in poplar salicinoid phenolic glycoside biosynthesis. Plant Journal 102: 99-115.
Gourlay, G., Constabel C.P. 2019. Condensed tannins are inducible antioxidants and protect hybrid poplar against oxidative stress. Tree Physiology, 39, 345–355.
Ma, D., Constabel C.P. 2019. MYB Repressors as regulators of phenylpropanoid metabolism in plants. Trends in Plant Science 24: 275-289.
Constabel, C.P. 2018. Molecular controls of proanthocyanidin synthesis and structure: prospects for genetic engineering in crop plants. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 66, 9882-9888.
Ma, D., Reichelt, M., Yoshida, K., Gershenzon, J., Constabel, C.P. 2018. Two R2R3-MYB proteins are broad repressors of flavonoid and phenylpropanoid metabolism in poplar. The Plant Journal  96: 949-965.
Ferguson, A., Carvalho, E., Gourlay, G., Walker,V., Martens, S., Salminen, J.-P., Constabel, C.P. (2018) Phytochemical analysis of salal berry (Gaultheria shallon Pursh.), a traditionally-consumed fruit from western North America with exceptionally high proanthocyanidin content. Phytochemistry 147: 203-210

Shay, P.E., Constabel, C.P., Trofymow, T.A. (2018) Evidence for the role and fate of water-insoluble condensed tannins in the short-term reduction of carbon loss
during litter decay. Biogeochemistry 137: 127-141

James AM, Ma D, Mellway R, Gesell A, Yoshida K, Walker V, Tran L, Stewart D, Reichelt M, Jussi Suvanto, Salminen J-P, Gershenzon J, Séguin A, and Constabel CP (2017) The poplar MYB115 and MYB134 transcription factors regulate proanthocyanidin synthesis and structure. Plant Physiology 74: 154-171

Shay PE, Trofymow TA, Constabel CP (2017). An improved butanol-HCl assay for quantification of water-soluble, acetone:methanol-soluble, and insoluble proanthocyanidins (condensed tannins). BMC Plant Methods 13:63.

Yoshida K, Ma D and Constabel CP (2015) The MYB182 protein downregulates proanthocyanidin and anthocyanin biosynthesis in poplar by repressing both structural and regulatory flavonoid genes.  Plant Physiology 167: 693-710.

Chedgy RJ, Köllner TG, Constabel CP (2015) Functional characterization of two acyltransferases from Populus trichocarpa capable of synthesizing benzyl benzoate and salicyl benzoate, potential intermediates in salicinoid phenolic glycoside biosynthesis. Phytochemistry 13: 139-149.

Tran LT, Taylor JS, and Constabel CP (2012) The polyphenol oxidase gene family in land plants: Lineage-specific duplication and expansion. BMC Genomics 13:395

Zifkin M, Jin A, Ozga JA, Zaharia I, Schernthaner JP, Gesell A, Abrams S, Kennedy JA and Constabel CP (2012) Gene expression and metabolite profiling of developing highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) fruit indicates transcriptional regulation of flavonoid metabolism and activation of abscisic acid metabolism. Plant Physiology 158: 200-224