Academic Profile : Faculty

Liang Zhao-Xun portrait2.jpg picture
Prof Liang Zhao-Xun
Professor, School of Biological Sciences
External Links
- Ph.D., Chemistry, Northwestern University, US (Supervisor: Brain Hoffman)
- B.S./M.S., Organic Chemistry, Lanzhou University, China (Supervisor: Guo Qing-

- Sep 2005 - Present, Assistant, associate and full professor, School of Biological
Sciences, Nanyang Technological University of Singapore
- Jan 2002 - Jul 2005 Postdoc fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of
California at Berkeley (Supervisor: Judith Klinman)
Our lab is interested in discovering novel enzymes, pathways, and mechanisms involved in natural product biosynthesis and bacterial pathogenesis. The ongoing research projects are:

Biosynthesis of natural products. The specialized metabolites produced by microbes are renowned for their complex structure and potent bioactivity. Microbes rely on the enzymes in biosynthetic pathways to construct and decorate the chemical scaffolds of specialized metabolites. The underestimated functional diversity of enzymes, coupled with the surprisingly large number of pathways encoded by cryptic biosynthetic gene clusters (BGC), offers ample opportunities for discovering enzymes with novel structures and functions. With a collection of unique microbial strains in our lab, we sequence and mine the microbial genomes to identify cryptic biosynthetic pathways. We utilize a variety of biochemical, genetic, and synthetic biology tools to activate and delineate the cryptic biosynthetic pathways to uncover new scaffold-forming and modifying enzymes.

Design of artificial biosynthetic pathways. Many drugs in use today are the structural derivatives of natural products generated by chemical modification approaches. Enabled by recent technological advances in DNA synthesis and genome editing, we are exploring the idea of rewiring of microbial biosynthetic pathways to produce natural product derivatives or “artificial” chemical scaffolds that do not exist in nature. Such a pathway-rewiring strategy, which involves merging different pathways via enzymatic or non-enzymatic coupling of biosynthetic intermediates or products, allows us to tap into the full potential of nature’s biosynthetic power.

Cyclic dinucleotide-mediated bacterial pathogenesis. Cyclic dinucleotides (e.g., c-di-GMP & c-di-AMP) have emerged as prominent messengers in some clinically important pathogenic bacteria by regulating functions such as virulence expression and bacterial motility. Accumulating evidence suggests that the cellular level of cyclic dinucleotides is controlled by a complex network of enzymes and effector proteins in a spatiotemporal manner. We aim to uncover and elucidate novel cyclic dinucleotide-mediated mechanisms that underpin bacterial infection and antibiotic resistance. We hope the research will disclose novel signaling proteins that can be targeted for developing antimicrobial and biofilm-controlling agents.

A full list of my publications can be found at

Please contact me directly ( if you are interested in joining us.
  • Engineering Solutions Inspired by Plastics-eating Worms to End Plastic Waste
  • Novel Antimalarial Cyclic Peptides and Enzymes from an Unusual Biosynthetic Pathway
  • Specialized metabolites from the human gut microbiota
US 2012/0040403 A1: A Diguanylate Cyclase, Method of Producing the Same and its Use in the Manufacture of Cyclic-DI-GMP and Analogues Thereof (2014)
Abstract: Described is a new stand-alone diguanylate cyclase polypeptide having a GGDEF motif and a mutated I-site that does not bind c-di-GMP. We demonstrate that the production yield of c-di-GMP and analogues was significantly increased by mutation of a conserved residue in the putative regulatory I-site.
Courses Taught
BS2009 Advanced Biochemistry
BS3028 Chemical Biology
BS3028 Natural Products in Medicinal Chemistry
BS4008 Current Topics in Biochemistry
Supervision of PhD Students
Rao Feng
Qi Yaning
Kong Rong
Ela Murugan
Sun Huihua
Lawrence Ho Chun Long
Liew Chong Wai (co-supervisor)
Chen Ming Wei (co-supervisor)
Mary Chuah
Alolika Chakrabortti
Prabhadevi Venkataramani
Cheang Qing Wei
Pang Li Mei
Low Zhen Jie
Xin Ling Yi
Sean Lee En Qiu
Hartono Candra
Gakuubi Martin Muthee (Co-supervisor)
Ma Yadanar Phyo (Co-supervisor)
Liao Yanghui