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Jörg Schwender

Principal Investigator


Jörg Schwender earned his Ph.D. in 1999 at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, where he was working with H. K. Lichtenthaler on a novel biosynthetic pathway for plant isoprenoids. He then moved to the Plant Biology Department at Michigan State University where he worked as a Post-Doc with J. Ohlrogge and Y. Shachar-Hill on central metabolism in developing oil seeds and described the RubisCO Shunt, part of a carbon efficient biochemical transformation of sugars into storage lipids in seeds. In 2005 J. Schwender moved to Brookhaven National Laboratory and established an independent research program.

Structure and Function of Plant Central Metabolism

Plant biomass is of major economic value with increasing importance as renewable resource for the production of fuel and chemical feedstocks for the chemical industry. Rational engineering of plant metabolism is still hampered by the lack of understanding of the very complex biochemical machinery. This also applies to central metabolism, a conserved metabolic network that fuels all cellular activities with building blocks and energy cofactors. Given rapid advances in molecular genetics as well as in the omics technologies within the recent decades, one might expect that at least for central metabolism the parts list has been comprehensively discovered. However, new links in the plants’ central metabolism continue to be discovered today. Further, we are far from a good understanding of central metabolism with regards to the coordination of metabolic activities by multilayered and intertwined regulatory circuits. This limits our ability to exploit mechanisms of pathway regulation to maximize end product yield e.g. by use of synthetic biology approaches.

Schematic of carbon flow during storage synthesis in developing seeds of Brassica napus based on metabolic flux analysis (See publications below). PPP = pentose phosphate pathway; TAG = triacylglycerol.

Research Interests

The Schwender group is interested in increasing the basic understanding of control and regulation of plant central metabolism, with focus on heterotrophic sink tissues like seeds. We use isotope labeling experiments, mathematical models and computer simulation to describe and analyze metabolism quantitatively. In particular we have extensive experience in steady-state stable isotope labeling to determine the flux distribution in central carbon metabolism. Cultures of developing embryos of Brassica napus and other brassicaceae species turned out to be excellent in vitro models to study seed development and storage synthesis. Growing in culture, embryos are labeled with a variety of 13C-labeled precursors and individual C-atoms are traced through the metabolic network by analyzing the label in metabolites and end products by GC/MS and NMR. Different nutritional conditions or genotypes can be analyzed and compared.


Recent News

Published Books

  • Plant Metabolic Networks
    Schwender, Jörg (Ed.)
    2009, X, 390 p. 13 illus., 11 in color., Springer, NY, Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-387-78744-2

Selected Publications

  • Shi H. and Schwender J. Mathematical models of plant metabolism. Curr Opin Biotechnol 37: 143-152 (2016) PubMed
  • Schwender J., Hebbelmann I., Heinzel N., Hildebrandt T., Rogers A., Naik D., Klapperstuck M., Braun H.P., Schreiber F., Denolf P., Borisjuk L., Rolletschek H. Quantitative Multilevel Analysis of Central Metabolism in Developing Oilseeds of Oilseed Rape during in Vitro Culture. Plant Physiol 168: 828-848 (2015) PubMed
  • Schwender J., König C., Klapperstück M., Heinzel N., Munz E., Hebbelmann I., Hay J.O., Denolf P., Bodt S.D., Redestig H., Caestecker E., Jakob P.M., Borisjuk L., Rolletschek H. Transcript abundance on its own cannot be used to infer fluxes in central metabolism. Front Plant Sci 5:668 (2014) PubMed
  • Hay J.O. and Schwender J. Flux variability analysis: Application to developing oilseed rape embryos using toolboxes for constraint-based modeling. Plant Metabolic Flux Analysis: Methods and Protocols, Methods in Molecular Biology, M. Dieuaide-Noubhani and A. Paula Alonso, Editors, Chapter 18, Vol. 1090, pp. 301-316, Springer Science + Business Media, New York, NY (2014). PubMed
  • Hay J.O., Shi H., Heinzel N., Hebbelmann I., Rolletschek H., and Schwender J. Integration of a constraint-based metabolic model of Brassica napus developing seeds with (13)C-metabolic flux analysis. Frontiers in Plant Science 5, p. 724. (2014) PubMed
  • Yan Y., Candreva J., Shi H., Ernst E., Martienssen R., Schwender J., and Shanklin J. Survey of the total fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition and content of 30 duckweed species and cloning of a Δ6-desaturase responsible for the production of γ-linolenic and stearidonic acids in Lemna gibba. BMC Plant Biology, 13:201 (2013). PubMed
  • Borisjuk L., Neuberger T., Schwender J., Heinzel N., Sunderhaus S., Fuchs J., Hay, J.O., Tschiersch H., Braun H. P., Denolf P., Lambert B., Jakob P. M., and Rolletschek H. Seed architecture shapes embryo metabolism in oilseed rape. Plant Cell, 25(5):1625-1640 (2013). PubMed
  • Fan J., Yan C., Andre C., Shanklin J., Schwender J., and Xu C. Oil accumulation is controlled by carbon precursor supply for fatty acid synthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Plant Cell Physiol., 53(8):1380-1390 (2012). PubMed
  • Lohr M., Schwender J., and Polle J.E.W. Isoprenoid biosynthesis in eukaryotic phototrophs: A spotlight on algae (Review). Plant Science, 185-186:9-22 (2012). PubMed
  • O’Grady J., Schwender J., Shachar-Hill Y., and Morgan J.A. Metabolic cartography: Experimental quantification of metabolic fluxes from isotopic labeling studies. Journal of Experimental Botany, 63(6):2293-2308 (March, 2012). PubMed
  • Schwender J., and Hay J.O. Predictive modeling of biomass component tradeoffs in Brassica napus developing oilseeds based on in silico manipulation of storage metabolism. Plant Physiology, 160(3):1218-1236 (2012). PubMed Abstract
  • Hay J. and Schwender J. Metabolic network reconstruction and flux variability analysis of storage synthesis in developing oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.) embryos. The Plant Journal 67(3), 526–541 (2011). PubMed Abstract
  • Hay J. and Schwender J. Computational analysis of storage synthesis in developing Brassica napus L. (oilseed rape) embryos: flux variability analysis in relation to 13C metabolic flux analysis. The Plant Journal 67(3), 513–525 (2011). PubMed Abstract
  • Lohr M., Schwender J., and Polle J.E.W. Isoprenoid biosynthesis in eukaryotic phototrophs: A spotlight on algae. Plant Sciences, 185-186:9-22. doi:10.1016/j.plantsci.2011.07.018 (2011). PubMed
  • Schwender J. Experimental flux measurements on a network scale. Frontiers in Plant Sci., 2:63. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2011.00063 (2011). PubMed
  • Koschützki D., Junker B.H., Schwender J., and Schreiber F. Structural analysis of metabolic networks based on flux centrality. J. Theor Biol., 265:261-269, DOI 10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.05.009 (2010). PubMed
  • Lonien J., and Schwender J. Analysis of metabolic flux phenotypes for two Arabidopsis thaliana mutants with severe impairment in seed storage lipid synthesis. Plant Physiology, 151(3):1617-1634 (2009). PubMed Plant Physiology
  • van der Lelie D., Taghavi S., Monchy S., Schwender J., Miller L., Ferrieri R., Rogers A., Wu X., Zhu W., Weyens N., Vangronsveld J., and Newman L. Poplar and its bacterial endophytes: Coexistence and harmony. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 28(5), 346-358 (2009).
  • Schwender J. Metabolic flux analysis as a tool in metabolic engineering of plants. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol., 19(2):131-137 (2008). PubMed
  • Junker B.H., Lonien J., Heady L.E., Rogers A. and Schwender J. Parallel determination of enzyme activities and in vivo fluxes in Brassica napus embryos grown on organic or inorganic nitrogen source. Phytochemistry, 68(16-18):2232-2242 (2007). PubMed
  • Schwender J., Shachar-Hill Y. and Ohlrogge, J.B. Mitochondrial metabolism in developing embryos of Brassica napus. J Biol Chem., 281:34040-34047 (2006). PubMed See also: J Biol Chem of November 10, (2006). Paper of the Week
  • Goffman F.D., Alonso A.P., Schwender J., Shachar-Hill Y. and Ohlrogge, J.B. Light enables a very high efficiency of carbon storage in developing embryos of rapeseed. Plant Physiol., 138(4):2269-2279 (2005). PubMed Full Text
  • Ruuska S.A., Schwender J. and Ohlrogge J.B. The capacity of green oilseeds to utilize photosynthesis to drive biosynthetic processes. Plant Physiol., 136(1):2700-2709 (2004). PubMed Full Text
  • Schwender J., Goffman F., Ohlrogge J.B. and Shachar-Hill Y. Rubisco without the Calvin cycle improves the carbon efficiency of developing green seeds. Nature, 432:779-782 (2004). PubMed See also: CH Surridge, Nature News and Views: Plant biochemistry: Green catalytic converter. Nature, 432:684 (2004). PubMed
  • Schwender J., Ohlrogge J.B. and Shachar-Hill Y. Understanding flux in plant metabolic networks. Curr Opin Plant Biol., 7(3):309-317 (2004). PubMed
  • Schwender J., Ohlrogge J.B. and Shachar-Hill Y. A flux model of glycolysis and oxidative pentosephosphate pathway in developing Brassica napus embryos. J Biol Chem., 278(32):29442-29453 (2003). PubMed Full Text
  • Schwender J. and Ohlrogge J.B. Probing in vivo metabolism by stable isotope labeling of storage lipids and proteins in developing Brassica napus embryos. Plant Physiol., 130(1):347-361 (2002). PubMed Full Text