Academic Profile

Ph.D. degree in Chemistry, Northwestern University, USA (Supervised by Brain Hoffman)
B.S. & M.S. degree in Organic Chemistry, Lanzhou University, Gansu, China

Sep 2005 - Present, Assistant, associate and full professor, School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Jan 2002 - Jul 2005, Postdoc fellow, Department of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley (with Judith Klinman)
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Prof Liang Zhao-Xun
Professor, School of Biological Sciences

My research interests lie broadly at the interface of chemistry and biology. The main thrust of my group is to discover novel enzymes and antimicrobial targets. The two main research projects in our lab are:

Project 1. Soil and marine microorganisms produce a wide variety of secondary metabolites with spectacular chemical structure and potent biological activity. Relying on a genome-guided approach, we focus on discovering novel biosynthetic enzymes and secondary metabolites encoded by unusual biosynthetic gene clusters. After isolating phylogenetically unique soil and marine microbes from the tropic environment of South East Asia, we usually sequence and mine the genome of the microbes to identify novel biosynthetic pathways. We employ a variety of genetic, biochemical, and synthetic biology tools to manipulate the biosynthetic gene clusters to produce (and modify) the secondary metabolites and characterize the function and mechanism of the novel biosynthetic enzymes. We expect the research work to yield novel bioactive natural products with potential therapeutic values and enzymes that can be exploited as biocatalysts.

Project 2. Cyclic dinucleotides (e.g., c-di-GMP and c-di-AMP) have emerged as prominent messengers in many multidrug-resistant pathogenic bacteria in recent years. Cyclic dinucleotides contribute to bacterial pathogenesis by mediating such important processes as virulence expression, antibiotic resistance, and biofilm formation. Accumulating evidence suggests that the cellular level of cyclic dinucleotides is controlled in a spatiotemporal manner by a complex network of enzymes and effector proteins. We are conducting biochemical, structural, and transcriptomic studies to understand cyclic dinucleotide-mediated mechanisms that underpin bacterial infection and antibiotic resistance. Given the vital role played by the cyclic nucleotides in both acute and chronic bacterial infection, we expect the research to disclose novel signaling proteins and pathways that can be targeted for developing antimicrobial and biofilm-controlling agents.

A full list of my publications can be found at contact me directly ( if you are interested in joining us.
  • Engineering Solutions Inspired by Plastics-eating Worms to End Plastic Waste

  • Heterologous Production Of Cannabinoids In Proprietary Streptomyces Hosts

  • Specialized metabolites from the human gut microbiota
  • Ma, G-L, Tran, HT, Low, ZJ, Candra, H., Pang, LM, Chang, QW, Fan, ML, Liang, Z.-X. (2021) Pathway retrofitting yields insights into the biosynthesis of anthraquinone-fused enediynes, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 143, 11500–11509.

  • Ma GL, Chandra, H, Liang, Z.-X. (2020). Taming the flagellar motor of pseudomonads with a nucleotide messenger. Environmental Microbiology, 22, 2496–2513.

  • Z.J. Low, G-L. Ma, H. T. Tran, Y. Zou, X. Juan, L. Pang, S. Nuryyeva, Y. Hong, J. HuK, N. Houk, Z.-X. Liang. (2020). Sungeidines from a Non-canonical Enediyne Biosynthetic Pathway. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 142(4), 1673-1679.

  • Pham HT, Nhiep NTH, Vu TNM, Huynh TN, Zhu Y, Huynh ALD, *Chakrabortti A, Marcellin E, Lo R, Howard CB, Bansal N, Woodward JJ, Liang ZX, Turner M, S., (2018) Enhanced uptake of potassium or glycine betaine or export of cyclic-di-AMP restores osmoresistance in a high cyclic-di-AMP Lactococcus lactis mutant. PLoS Genetics. 14(8): e1007574.

  • Xu, L. H, Xing, L. Y., Zeng, Y., Yam, J. K. H., Ding, Y., Venkataramani, P., Cheang, Q. W., Yang, X., Tang, X., Zhang, L.-H., Chiam, K.-H., L, Yang, Liang, Z.-X. (2016). A cyclic di-GMP–binding adaptor protein interacts with a chemotaxis methyltransferase to control flagellar motor switching. Science Signaling, 9, ra102.

  • Liang, Z.-X. (2015) The expanding role of cyclic dinucleotides in the biosynthesis of polysaccharides and secondary metabolites. Natural Product Reports, 32, 663-683.

  • Ho, C. L., Chong, K. S. J., Oppong, J. A., Chuah, M. L. C., Tan, S. M., Liang, Z.-X. (2013). Visualizing the perturbation of cellular cyclic di-GMP levels in bacterial cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 135, 566-569.

  • Sun H, Ho CL, Ding F, Soehano I, Liu X-W, and Liang Z-X. (2012). Synthesis of (R)-Mellein by a Partially Reducing Iterative Polyketide Synthase. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 134(29), 11924–11927.