Faculty Profiles

John Celenza

John L. Celenza

Associate Professor of Biology
Director, Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

PhD, Columbia University, 1988
Areas of interest: plant development, defense, and metabolism; genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology
(617) 353-2445

Current Research

In the plant kingdom the amino acid tryptophan not only functions in protein synthesis, but is also a precursor for a variety of natural products involved in growth and development and in plant defense. In addition, because tryptophan is an essential amino acid, the human diet optimization of its production in plants is an important agricultural trait. Using the mustard Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system, we combine genetic, molecular biological, and biochemical methods to study how tryptophan is converted to the growth hormone auxin, the antiherbivory class of compounds called glucosinolates, and the antifungal compound called camalexin. Our goals are to:

  1. define the genes and enzymes needed for the biosynthesis of tryptophan and its metabolites

  2. understand regulatory mechanisms that modulate tryptophan metabolism and that integrate these pathways with other metabolic pathways

  3. determine the effects of genetic perturbations in tryptophan metabolism on plant growth and development

Courses Taught

  • BI 206/216/282 Genetics
  • BI 513 Genetics Laboratory

Selected Publications

  • Nonhebel HM, Al-Amier H, Pieck M, Akor E, Ahamed A, Cohen JD, Celenza JL, Normanly J (2010). Redirection of Trp metabolism in tobacco by ectopic expression of an Arabidopsis indolic glucosinolate biosynthetic gene. Phytochemistry. Published online doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2010.10.01.
  • Bender J and Celenza JL (2009). Indolic glucosinolates at the crossroads of tryptophan metabolism. Phytochem Rev 8, 25-37.
  • Ljung K, Hull AK, Celenza JL, Yamada M, Estelle M, Normanly J, Sandberg G (2005). Sites and regulation of auxin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis roots. Plant Cell 17, 1090-1104.
  • Celenza, JL, Quiel JA, Smolen GA, Merrikh H, Silvestro A, Normanly J, Bender J (2005). The Arabidopsis ATR1 Myb transcription factor controls indolic glucosinolate homeostasis. Plant Physiol.  137, 253-262.
  • DiDonato RJ, Arbuckle E, Buker S, Sheets J, Tobar J, Totong R, Grisafi P, Fink GR, Celenza JL (2004). Arabidopsis ALF4 encodes a nuclear-localized protein required for lateral root formation. Plant J. 37, 340-353.
  • Zhao Y, Hull AK, Gupta NR, Goss K, Normanly J, Chory J, Celenza JL (2002). Trp-dependent auxin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis: involvement of cytochrome P450s CYP79B2 and CYP79B3. Genes Dev. 16, 3100-3112.
  • Ljung K, Hull AK, Kowalczyk M, Marchant A, Celenza JL, Cohen JD, Sandberg G (2002). Biosynthesis, conjugation, catabolism and homeostasis of indole-3-acetic acid in Arabidopsis thaliana Plant Mol. Biol. 49, 249-272.
  • Celenza JL. (2001). Natural products derived from the N-hydroxylation of tyrosine and tryptophan. Curr. Opin. Plant Biol. 4, 234-240.

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