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Bjoern Hamberger - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Bjoern Hamberger

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry | Michigan State University


Hamberger's research focuses on the discovery of plant pathways for bioactive diterpenoids found in medicinal plant species.


Björn Hamberger is an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Natural Science.

Areas of Expertise (3)

Synthetic Biology

Plant Specialized Metabolites


Education (1)

Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research: PhD, Molecular Biology of Plant Specialised Metabolism

News (3)

Björn Hamberger: When science and art come together

360 Perspective  


The Science Gallery Detroit is the first U.S. representation of a global university-linked network dedicated to public outreach at the intersection of science and art. Exhibitions aim at 15- to 25-year-olds by bridging emerging scientific areas with design and technology.

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MSU hosts second Fascination of Plants Day

Michigan State University News  


Michigan State University plant biologists hosted the second Fascination of Plants Day on Saturday, May 19th at the Molecular Plant Sciences Building on main campus.

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Synthetic biology may hold key to answering some of the most difficult science questions

Michigan State University News  


An emerging field — synthetic biology — is attempting to broadly address the need for more nutritious food, improved prevention and treatment of diseases, renewable energy sources and protection for the environment.

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Patents (3)

Biosynthesis of acetylated 13r-mo and related compounds


2018 The invention relates to recombinant microorganisms and methods for producing acetylated diterpenes, including oxidized and/or acetylated oxidized diterpenes such as forskolin.

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Methods for Producing Diterpenes


2018 The present invention discloses that by combining different di TPS enzymes of class I and class II different diterpenes may be produced including diterpenes not identified in nature. Surprisingly it is revealed that a di TPS enzyme of class I of one species may be combined with a di TPS enzyme of class II from a different species, resulting in a high diversity of diterpenes, which can be produced.

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Stereo-specific synthesis of (13r)-manoyl oxide


2016 The present invention relates to a method for manufacturing enantiomerically pure (13R)-manoyl oxide, said method comprising the steps of contacting geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) with a class II diterpene synthase to obtain labd-13-en-8,15-diol diphosphate (LPP), and then contacting the LPP with a class I diterpene synthase to obtain (13R)-manoyl oxide. The invention further relates to (13R)-manoyl oxide obtained by the method of the invention.

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Journal Articles (5)

Promiscuous terpene synthases from Prunella vulgaris highlight the importance of substrate and compartment switching in terpene synthase evolution

New Phytologist

Sean R. Johnson, Wajid Waheed Bhat, Radin Sadre, Garret P. Miller, Alekzander Sky Garcia, Björn Hamberger

2019 The mint family (Lamiaceae) is well documented as a rich source of terpene natural products. More than 200 diterpene skeletons have been reported from mints, but biosynthetic pathways are known for just a few of these.

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Cytosolic lipid droplets as engineered organelles for production and accumulation of terpenoid biomaterials in leaves

Nature Communications

Radin Sadre, Peiyen Kuo, Jiaxing Chen, Yang Yang, Aparajita Banerjee, Christoph Benning & Bjoern Hamberger

2019 Cytosolic lipid droplets are endoplasmic reticulum-derived organelles typically found in seeds as reservoirs for physiological energy and carbon to fuel germination. Here, we report synthetic biology approaches to co-produce high-value sesqui- or diterpenoids together with lipid droplets in plant leaves. The formation of cytosolic lipid droplets is enhanced in the transient Nicotiana benthamiana system through ectopic production of WRINKLED1, a key regulator of plastid fatty acid biosynthesis, and a microalgal lipid droplet surface protein. Engineering of the pathways providing the universal C5-building blocks for terpenoids and installation of terpenoid biosynthetic pathways through direction of the enzymes to native and non-native compartments boost the production of target terpenoids. We show that anchoring of distinct biosynthetic steps onto the surface of lipid droplets leads to efficient production of terpenoid scaffolds and functionalized terpenoids. The co-produced lipid droplets “trap” the terpenoids in the cells.

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A chromosomal-scale genome assembly of Tectona grandis reveals the importance of tandem gene duplication and enables discovery of genes in natural product biosynthetic pathways


Dongyan Zhao, John P Hamilton, Wajid Waheed Bhat, Sean R Johnson, Grant T Godden, Taliesin J Kinser, Benoît Boachon, Natalia Dudareva, Douglas E Soltis, Pamela S Soltis, Bjoern Hamberger, C Robin Buell

2019 Teak, a member of the Lamiaceae family, produces one of the most expensive hardwoods in the world. High demand coupled with deforestation have caused a decrease in natural teak forests, and future supplies will be reliant on teak plantations. Hence, selection of teak tree varieties for clonal propagation with superior growth performance is of great importance, and access to high-quality genetic and genomic resources can accelerate the selection process by identifying genes underlying desired traits.

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A database-driven approach identifies additional diterpene synthase activities in the mint family (Lamiaceae)

Journal of Biological Chemistry

Sean R Johnson, Wajid Waheed Bhat, Jacob Bibik, Aiko Turmo, Britta Hamberger, Björn Hamberger, Benoît Boachon, C Robin Buell, Emily Crisovan, Natalia Dudareva, Nicolas Garcia, Grant Godden, Laura Henry, Mohamed O Kamileen, Heather Rose Kates, Matthew B Kilgore, Benjamin R Lichman, Evgeny V Mavrodiev, Linsey Newton, Carlos Rodriguez-Lopez, Sarah E O'Connor, Douglas Soltis, Pamela Soltis, Brieanne Vaillancourt, Krystle Wiegert-Rininger, Dongyan Zhao, Evolutionary Mint Genomics Consortium

2019 Members of the mint family (Lamiaceae) accumulate a wide variety of industrially and medicinally relevant diterpenes. We recently sequenced leaf transcriptomes from 48 phylogenetically diverse Lamiaceae species. Here, we summarize the available chemotaxonomic and enzyme activity data for diterpene synthases (diTPSs) in the Lamiaceae and leverage the new transcriptomes to explore the diTPS sequence and functional space. Candidate genes were selected with an intent to evenly sample the sequence homology space and to focus on species in which diTPS transcripts were found, yet from which no diterpene structures have been previously reported. We functionally characterized nine class II diTPSs and 10 class I diTPSs from 11 distinct plant species and found five class II activities, including two novel activities, as well as a spectrum of class I activities. Among the class II diTPSs, we identified a neo-cleroda-4(18),13E-dienyl diphosphate synthase from Ajuga reptans, catalyzing the likely first step in the biosynthesis of a variety of insect-antifeedant compounds. Among the class I diTPSs was a palustradiene synthase from Origanum majorana, leading to the discovery of specialized diterpenes in that species. Our results provide insights into the diversification of diterpene biosynthesis in the mint family and establish a comprehensive foundation for continued investigation of diterpene biosynthesis in the Lamiaceae.

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BacHBerry: BACterial Hosts for production of Bioactive phenolics from bERRY fruits

Phytochemistry Reviews

Alexey Dudnik, A Filipa Almeida, Ricardo Andrade, Barbara Avila, Pilar Bañados, Diane Barbay, Jean-Etienne Bassard, Mounir Benkoulouche, Michael Bott, Adelaide Braga, Dario Breitel, Rex Brennan, Laurent Bulteau, Celine Chanforan, Inês Costa, Rafael S Costa, Mahdi Doostmohammadi, Nuno Faria, Chengyong Feng, Armando Fernandes, Patricia Ferreira, Roberto Ferro, Alexandre Foito, Sabine Freitag, Gonçalo Garcia, Paula Gaspar, Joana Godinho-Pereira, Björn Hamberger, András Hartmann, Harald Heider, Carolina Jardim, Alice Julien-Laferriere, Nicolai Kallscheuer, Wolfgang Kerbe, Oscar P Kuipers, Shanshan Li, Nicola Love, Alberto Marchetti-Spaccamela, Jan Marienhagen, Cathie Martin, Arnaud Mary, Vincent Mazurek, Camillo Meinhart, David Méndez Sevillano, Regina Menezes, Michael Naesby, Morten HH Nørholm, Finn T Okkels, Joana Oliveira, Marcel Ottens, Delphine Parrot, Lei Pei, Isabel Rocha, Rita Rosado-Ramos, Caroline Rousseau, Marie-France Sagot, Claudia Nunes Dos Santos, Markus Schmidt, Tatiana Shelenga, Louise Shepherd, Ana Rita Silva, Marcelo Henriques da Silva, Olivier Simon, Steen Gustav Stahlhut, Ana Solopova, Artem Sorokin, Derek Stewart, Leen Stougie, Shang Su, Vera Thole, Olga Tikhonova, Martin Trick, Philippe Vain, André Veríssimo, Ana Vila-Santa, Susana Vinga, Michael Vogt, Liangsheng Wang, Lijin Wang, Wei Wei, Sandra Youssef, Ana Rute Neves, Jochen Forster

2018 BACterial Hosts for production of Bioactive phenolics from bERRY fruits (BacHBerry) was a 3-year project funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of the European Union that ran between November 2013 and October 2016. The overall aim of the project was to establish a sustainable and economically-feasible strategy for the production of novel high-value phenolic compounds isolated from berry fruits using bacterial platforms. The project aimed at covering all stages of the discovery and pre-commercialization process, including berry collection, screening and characterization of their bioactive components, identification and functional characterization of the corresponding biosynthetic pathways, and construction of Gram-positive bacterial cell factories producing phenolic compounds. Further activities included optimization of polyphenol extraction methods from bacterial cultures, scale-up of production by fermentation up to pilot scale, as well as societal and economic analyses of the processes. This review article summarizes some of the key findings obtained throughout the duration of the project.

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