Camilla Knudsen Baden
Section for Plant Biochemistry
Thorvaldsensvej 40, 1871 Frb. C
“I get inspired to look at thing is in different ways by my collaborators both within and outside my field. This helps me troubleshot in the lab as well as sustain the direction the research should go.”
What is your research area?
Plants possess an immense diversity both in appearance and the compounds they produce to survive the harsh environment that nature really is. Many of these compounds are bioactive and have been used for many years as flavors, colors, perfumes, bio-pesticides and medicine. The complexity of these compounds is enormous and synthesis by traditional organic chemistry is very difficult. In our group we study how these highly valuable compounds (specialized metabolites) are biosynthesized by the plants and how we can use synthetic biology to produce them in yeast or plant production systems such as algae or moss.
Currently I am involved in several project all focusing on the assembly of the dhurrin metabolon in order to understand the mechanisms behind and exploit this knowledge in the production of high value compounds.
We have several project opportunities and always welcome students to join our group. One example of a project can be found here;
Why did you choose to work with this? / with synthetic biology?
I carried out my PhD studies at the VILLUM Research Center for Plant Plasticity supervised by Prof. Birger Lindberg Møller. My work focused on cyanogenic glucoside (CNG) biosynthesis in Lotus japonicus and made significant contributions to the identification of the first cyanogenic glucoside biosynthetic gene clusters in the genomes of Lotus japonicus, Manihot esculenta (cassava) and Sorghum bicolor (Takos, Knudsen et al. 2011). During my PhD studies I became an expert on gene expression, protein purification and enzyme bioassays of cytochromes P450s and UDP-glycosyltransferases. In addition, MS bioimaging in form of DESI-MSI led us to identify the localization of the biosynthesis of CNGs in lotus (Li, Knudsen et al. 2013).
This insight led to my Post Doc position at the Center for Synthetic Biology and my involvement in the isolation and characterization of the dynamic dhurrin metabolon that had been elusive since the 1980’s (Laursen, Borch, Knudsen et al. 2016). This very cross-disciplinary study was published in SCIENCE in 2016 and featured in a Perspectives in SCIENCE in which the authors stated; “The work of Laursen et al. is a watershed in metabolon research and a pinnacle of earlier groundbreaking work on the dhurrin metabolon”.
In this work, we shed light on the importance of both the composition of ER-membrane and the soluble protein partners for the metabolic channeling and dynamic assembly and disassembly of biosynthetic metabolons in specialized metabolism in plants. This may facilitate efficient engineering and optimizations of biosynthetic pathways in heterologous hosts producing high-value compounds in the future. More information about what we do in the research group 'Dynamic Metabolons' can be found here.
What motivates you in your work?
Curiosity and fascination of how plants can produce very complex metabolites in often much simpler ways then we as scientists suggest.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Probably being a part of a project that can finally prove an almost 30 year old hypothesis within the field – namely the metabolon formation in plant compound production. This has only become possible through the collaboration of a number of scientists in order to thoroughly investigate the hypothesis as all participants have different strengths and competences used in this project.
When not doing science; how do you like to spend your time?
I enjoy gardening, being outdoors and experiencing nature together with my two kids. My fascination of nature and science is already inspiring my kids.
Research groups that I am part of: