Dr. Tariq A. Akhtar

Associate Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Phone number: 
54794 / 58302
SSC 4461
SSC 4405-6

My primary research interest concerns the splendid array of compounds that are made by plants and the underlying molecular and biochemical basis of their synthesis. Our research focuses on natural products that are of medicinal, industrial or pharmacological relevance and on specialized metabolites that help plants cope with their dynamic environment. We employ a diverse set of approaches throughout these investigations that rely on genomic, classical biochemical, and molecular biology resources. We also work closely with collaborators in various fields such as organic chemistry, food science, neurobiology, and ecology with the overall goal to shed light on the processes 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
  • Hoang V. Tang, David L. Berryman, Jorrel Mendoza, Jessica P. Yactayo-Chang, Qin-Bao Li, Shawn A. Christensen, Charles T. Hunter, Norman Best, Eric Soubeyrand, Tariq A. Akhtar, Gilles J. Basset, Anna K. Block.  2022.  Dedicated Farnesyl Diphosphate Synthases Circumvent Isoprenoid-Derived Growth-Defense Tradeoffs in Zea mays.  Plant J. (in press)

  • Kelly Boddington, Eric Soubeyrand, Kristen Van Gelder, José A. Casaretto, Colby Perrin, Taylor J.B. Forrester, Cameron Parry, M. Sameer Al-Abdul-Wahid, Nicholas G. Jentsch, Jakob Magolan, Gale G. Bozzo, Matthew S. Kimber, Steven J. Rothstein, and Tariq A. Akhtar. 2022. Bibenzyl synthesis in Cannabis sativa L. Plant J. 109(3): 693-707.

  • Shoshana Buckhalter, Eric Soubeyrand, Sarah A E Ferrone, Duncan J Rasmussen, Joshua D Manduca, M Sameer Al-Abdul-Wahid, Jude A Frie, Jibran Y Khokhar, Tariq A Akhtar, Melissa L Perreault. 2021. The Antidepressant-Like and Analgesic Effects of Kratom Alkaloids are accompanied by Changes in Low Frequency Oscillations but not ΔFosB Accumulation. Front Pharmacol. 12:696461.

  • Matthew Tcheng, Vitor L S Cunha, Nawaz Ahmed, Xiaofan Liu, Richard W Smith, Kevin A Rea, Tariq A Akhtar, Angelo D'Alessandro, Mark D Minden, Jerry Vockley, George A O'Doherty, Todd L Lowary, Paul A Spagnuolo. 2021. Structure-activity relationship of avocadyne. Food Funct. 12(14):6323-6333.

  • Matthew Tcheng , Alessia Roma , Nawaz Ahmed , Richard William Smith, Dr , Preethi Jayanth , Mark D. Minden , Aaron D Schimmer , David A Hess , Kristin Hope , Tariq Akhtar , Eric Bohrnsen , Angelo D'Alessandro , Al-Walid Mohsen , Jerry Vockley , and Paul A. Spagnuolo. 2021. Very long chain fatty acid metabolism is required in acute myeloid leukemia. Blood. 137(25):3518-3532.

  • Kristen Van Gelder, Lilia K.A. Virta, Jeremy Easlick, Nicholas Prudhomme, Jason A. McAlister, Jennifer Geddes-McAlister, and Tariq A. Akhtar. 2021. A central role for polyprenol reductase in plant dolichol biosynthesis. Plant Science. 303:110773.

  • Kristen Van Gelder, Taylor Forrester, Tariq A. Akhtar. 2020. Evidence From Stable-Isotope Labeling That Catechol Is an Intermediate in Salicylic Acid Catabolism in the Flowers of Silene Latifolia (White Campion). Planta. 252: 3.
  • Rachel-Karson Thériault, Joshua D. Manduca, Colin R. Blight, Jibran Y. Khokhar, Tariq A. Akhtar, Melissa L. Perreault. 2020. Acute Mitragynine Administration Suppresses Cortical Oscillatory Power and Systems Theta Coherence in Rats. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 34: 759-770.
  • 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 63:1900668.
  • 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