Dr. Tariq A. Akhtar

Tariq A. Akhtar
Assistant Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Phone number: 
54794 / 58302
SSC 4461
SSC 4405-6

A Post-doctoral/Research Associate position is available in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph in the laboratory of Dr. Tariq Akhtar. The research project broadly focuses on the biosynthesis of plant secondary/specialized metabolites. - see details (PDF) (posted May 14, 2019)

My primary research interest concerns the splendid array of compounds that are made by plants and the underlying molecular and biochemical basis of their biosynthesis. I first developed this passion during my M.Sc. degree where I investigated the molecular mechanism by which various environmental cues cause plants to accumulate flavonoids, a well-known class of secondary metabolites that posses both physiological and nutritional importance. Based on this work I was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) postgraduate scholarship to pursue my PhD. I completed my doctorate under the mentorship of Dr. Andrew Hanson at the University of Florida where I contributed to a viable and cost-effective way to overcome global folate malnutrition through plant 'biofortification'. My research specifically addressed the issue of folate breakdown and storage and demonstrated a central role for polyglutamylation in the homeostasis of this plant-derived vitamin. I followed my interest in plant biochemistry to the laboratory of Dr. Eran Pichersky at the University of Michigan where I was engrossed in two main projects. In the first project, I utilized a stable isotope-assisted mass spectrometry-based metabolomics platform to discover a novel breakdown and recycling pathway for the plant hormone, salicylic acid. The second project builds on my recently published work describing the plant enzymes that synthesize polyisoprenoids and dolichols. Here I used a genomics approach to identify a novel class of cis-prenyltransferases that appear to be widespread among different plant lineages. I recently joined the Molecular and Cellular Biology Department at Guelph and my research continues to investigate the biochemical pathways that operate at the interface of plant primary and secondary metabolism.

  • B.Sc. - University of Waterloo
  • M.Sc. - University of Waterloo
  • Ph.D. - University of Florida
  • Postdoctoral Fellow - University of Michigan
  • Nawaz Ahmed, Matthew Tcheng, Alessia Roma, Michael Buraczynski, Preethi Jayanth, Kevin Rea, Tariq A. Akhtar, Paul A. Spagnuolo. 2019. Avocatin B Protects Against Lipotoxicity and Improves Insulin Sensitivity in Diet-Induced Obesity. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research (in press).
  • Kevin A Rea, José A. Casaretto, M. Sameer Al-Abdul-Wahid, Arjun Sukumaran, Jennifer Geddes-McAlister, Steven J. Rothstein, Tariq A. Akhtar. 2019. Biosynthesis of cannflavins A and B from Cannabis sativa L. Phytochemistry. 164:162-171
  • ​Kristen Van Gelder, Kevin A Rea, Lilia K A Virta, Kenna L Whitnell, Michael Osborn, Maritza Vatta, Alexandra Khozin, Karolina Skorupinska-Tudek, Liliana Surmacz, Tariq A Akhtar. 2018. Medium-Chain Polyprenols Influence Chloroplast Membrane Dynamics in Solanum Lycopersicum. Plant and Cell Physiology 59: 2350-2365
  • Joseph H. Lynch, Irina Orlova, Chengsong Zhao, Longyun Guo, Rohit Jaini, Hiroshi Maeda, Tariq Akhtar, Junellie Cruz-Lebron, David Rhodes, John Morgan, Guillaume Pilot, Eran Pichersky and Natalia Dudareva. 2017. Multifaceted Plant Responses to Circumvent Phe Hyperaccumulation by Downregulation of Flux through the Shikimate Pathway and by Vacuolar Phe Sequestration. The Plant Journal 92: 939-950
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Przemysław Surowiecki, Hanna Siekierska, Magdalena Kania, Kristen Van Gelder, Kevin A. Rea, Lilia K. A. Virta, Maritza Vatta, Katarzyna Gawarecka, Jacek Wojcik, Witold Danikiewicz, Daniel Buszewicz, Ewa Swiezewska, Liliana Surmacz. 2017. Polyprenols are synthesized by a plastidial cis-prenyltransferase and impact photosynthetic performance in Arabidopsis thaliana. The Plant Cell 29: 1709-1725
  • Megan I. Brasher, Liliana Surmacz, Bryan Leong, Jocelyn Pitcher, Ewa Swiezewska, Eran Pichersky and Tariq A. Akhtar. 2015. A two-component enzyme complex is required for dolichol biosynthesis in tomato. The Plant Journal 82: 903-14.
  • Tariq A. Akhtar and Eran Pichersky. 2013. Veratrole biosynthesis in white campion.  Plant Physiology 162: 52-62
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Yuki Matsuba, Ines Shauvinhold, Geng Yu, Hazel A. Lees, Samuel E. Klein, and Eran Pichersky. 2013. The tomato cis-prenyltransferase gene family. The Plant Journal 73: 640-52
  • Alok K. Gupta, Tariq A. Akhtar, Alex Widmer, Eran Pichersky and Florian P. Schiestl. 2012. Identification of white campion (Silene latifolia) guaiacol O-methyltransferase involved in the biosynthesis of veratrole, a key volatile for pollinator attraction. BMC Plant Biology 12:158
  • Vasiliki Falara, Tariq A. Akhtar, Thuong T.H. Nguyen, Eleni A. Spyropoulou, Petra M. Bleeker, Ines Shauvinhold, Yuki Matsuba, Megan E. Bonini, Anthony L. Schilmiller, Robert L. Last, Robert C. Schuurink, and Eran Pichersky. 2011. The tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) terpene synthase gene family.  Plant Physiology 157:770-89
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Giuseppe Orsomando, Payam Mehrshahi, Aurora Lara-Núñez, Malcolm J. Bennett, Jesse F. Gregory III, and Andrew D. Hanson. 2010. A Central role for gamma-glutamyl hydrolases in plant folate homeostasis. The Plant Journal 64: 256-66
  • Payam Mehrshahi, Sabrina Gonzalez-Jorge, Tariq A. Akhtar, Jane Ward, Anahi Santoyo-Castelazo, Susan E. Marcus, Aurora Lara-Núñez, Nathaniel D. Hawkins, Michael Beale, David A. Barrett, J. Paul Knox, Jesse F. Gregory III, Andrew D. Hanson, Malcolm J. Bennett, and Dean DellaPenna. 2010. Functional analysis of folate polyglutamylation and its essential role in plant metabolism and development. The Plant Journal 64: 267-269
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Hazel A. Lees, Mark A. Lampi, Daryl Enstone, Richard A. Brain, and Bruce M. Greenberg.  2010.  Photosynthetic redox imbalance influences flavonoid biosynthesis in Lemna gibba. Plant Cell and Environment. 33: 1205-1219
  • Jeffrey C. Waller*, Tariq A. Akhtar*, Aurora Lara-Núñez, Ryan P. McQuinn, James J. Giovannoni, Jesse F. Gregory III, and Andrew D. Hanson. 2010. Developmental and feedforward control of the expression of folate biosynthesis genes in tomato fruit. Molecular Plant. 3: 66-77 *co-first authors
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Ryan P. McQuinn, Valeria Naponelli, Jesse F. Gregory III, James J. Giovannoni, and Andrew D. Hanson. 2008. Tomato gamma-glutamyl hydrolases: expression, characterization, and evidence for heterodimer formation.  Plant Physiology. 148: 775-85
  • Tariq A. Akhtar, Mark A. Lampi, and Bruce M. Greenberg. 2005. Identification of six differentially expressed genes in response to copper exposure in the aquatic plant, Lemna gibba (duckweed).  Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 24: 1705-15
  • Sudhakar Babu, Tariq A. Akhtar, Mark A. Lampi, Sridevi Tripuranthakam, George D. Dixon, and Bruce M. Greenberg. 2003 Similar stress responses are elicited by copper and ultraviolet radiation in the aquatic plant, Lemna gibba:  Implication of reactive oxygen species as common signals.  Plant and Cell Physiology. 44: 1320-29