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Jian-Kang Zhu

Horticulture and Landscape Architecture 

  • Distinguished Professor in Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
WSLR Room 138-B
625 Agriculture Mall Dr
West Lafayette, In 47907


  • Professor of Biochemistry

About Dr. Jian-Kang Zhu

Distinguished Professor of Plant Biology​, Departments of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture and Biochemistry. Dr. Zhu earned his bachelor's degree in soils and agricultural chemistry from Beijing Agricultural University; his master's degree in botany from the University of California, Riverside, and his doctorate in plant physiology from Purdue. He comes to Purdue from the University of California, Riverside, where he was the Jane Johnson Chair Professor in the Institute for Integrative Genome Biology and Department of Botany and Plant Sciences. He is internationally renowned for his creative and path-breaking research that has sought to elucidate the signaling pathways in plants that govern their responses to environmental stresses. His research has contributed fundamentally to current understanding of the molecular-genetic mechanisms underlying salinity tolerance, drought tolerance, and low temperature stress in plants. Dr. Zhu’s laboratory has been central in the effort to identify key genes that could be manipulated to modify crop responses to abiotic stresses, with the ultimate goals of both enhanced agriculture productivity and decreased degradation of the environment.

Research Interests​

Detecting and responding to environmental perturbations are important for all living organisms.  One of the most important distinguishing features of p​lants is that they are sessile and thus have to endure environmental challenges. We are interested in understanding the genetic and epigenetic basis of plant resistance to environmental stresses and in identifying key genes for modifying the responses of crops to environmental stresses which ultimately will lead to major contributions to agriculture and the environment.

Plant agriculture must change fundamentally by mid-century, w​hen 9 billion people are expected to inhabit the planet, consuming 70–100% more food than is currently available (Godfray et al., 2010).  Water is the primary limiting factor in global agriculture, yet water availability and quality are diminishing for crops as cities grow and as irrigation and land-clearing salinize the soil and the underlying water tables (Sophocleous, 2004).  The problems of water deficit, salt, and other abiotic stresses are exacerbated by global warming and climate change (Fedoroff et al., 2010). The looming gap between water supply and demand creates a need for major advances in crop adaptation to drought and salt stresses through increased water-use efficiency and tolerance to saline soil. Our current and future research is aimed at improving our understand​ing of the drought, cold and heat, and salt-stress signaling pathways and resistance mechanisms. Increasing evidence suggests that plant adaptation to these abiotic stresses, in addition to being under genetic control, is also under epigenetic regulation. Accordingly, we are interested in epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation and their roles in abiotic stress resistance. Furthermore, we are interested in developing and applying TALE nuclease technologies and other genome engineering technologies for crop improvement.  We use a combination of genetic, biochemical, genomic and proteomic approaches to analyze various levels of gene regulation (chromatin level/epigenetic, transcriptional, posttranscriptional, and protein activity) and to understand stress signaling and stress resistance.  Our long-term goals are to elucidate the sensing and signaling pathways used by plants in responding to environmental stresses and to identify and utilize key genes for improving the stress resistance of crops.

Awards & Honors

(2019) 2019 Highly Cited Researcher in Plant and Animal Science. Web of Science, Clarivate Analytics.

(2012) Listed in Top Authors in Biology. Web of Science.

(2010) Member of the US National Academy of Sciences. National Academy.


Zhu, J. K. Nothing to report. U.S. Patent No. Nothing to report. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Zhu, J. K., Zhao, Y., & Chan, 0. Drought Tolerant Transgenic Plants and Method of Making Same. U.S. Patent No. Application Number: 61/856,198. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selected Publications

Zhao, Y., Chan, Z., Gao, J., Xing, L., Cao, M., Yu, C., . . . Zhu, J. (2016). ABA receptor PYL9 promotes drought resistance and leaf senescence. NATL ACAD SCIENCES, 113(7), 1949-1954. doi:10.1073/pnas.1522840113

Lang, Z., Lei, M., Wang, X., Tang, K., Miki, D., Zhang, H., . . . Zhu, J. (2015). The methyl-CpG-binding protein MBD7 facilitates active DNA demethylation to limit DNA hyper-methylation and transcriptional gene silencing. Molecular Cell, 57(6), 971-83. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2015.01.009

Lei, M., La, H., Lu, K., Wang, P., Miki, D., Ren, Z., . . . Zhu, J. (2014). Arabidopsis EDM2 promotes IBM1 distal polyadenylation and regulates genome DNA methylation patterns. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA, 111, 527-532.

Shi, H., Ye, T., Zhu, J., & Chan, Z. (2014). Constitutive production of nitric oxide leads to enhanced drought stress resistance and extensive transcriptional reprogramming in Arabidopsis. Journal of Experimental Botany, 65, 4119-4131.

Wang, P., Du , Y., Hou, Y. J., Zhao, Y., Hsu, C., Yuan, F., . . . Zhu, J. (2015). Nitric oxide negatively regulates abscisic acid signaling in guard cells by S-nitrosylation of OST1. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(2), 613-8. doi:10.1073/pnas.1423481112

Bressan, R. A., Zhu, J., Van Oosten, M. J., Maggio, A., Bohnert, H. J., & Chinnusamy, V. (2014). Epigenetics Connects the Genome to Its Environment. In PLANT BREEDING REVIEWS, VOL 38 (38, 69-141). COMMERCE PLACE, 350 MAIN STREET, MALDEN 02148, MA USA: WILEY-BLACKWELL.

Zhang, H., & Zhu, J. (2014). Emerging roles of RNA processing factors in regulating long non-coding RNAs. RNA Biology, 11, 793-797.

Xue, L., Wang, P., Cao, P., Zhu, J., & Tao, W. A. (2014). Identification of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 (ERK1) direct substrates using stable isotope labeled kinase assay-linked phosphoproteomics. Molecular & cellular proteomics : MCP, 13(11), 3199-210. doi:10.1074/mcp.O114.038588

Sridharamurthy, M., Kovach, A., Zhao, Y., Zhu, J., Xu, H., Swaminathan, K., & Melcher, K. (2014). H2O2 Inhibits ABA-Signaling Protein Phosphatase HAB1. PLoS One, 9, e113643.

Van Oosten, M. J., Bressan, R. A., Zhu, J., Bohnert, H. J., & Chinnusamy, V. (2014). The Role of the Epigenome in Gene Expression Control and the EpimarkChanges in Response to the Environment. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 33(1), 64-87. doi:10.1080/07352689.2014.852920

Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, 625 Agriculture Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010 USA, (765) 494-1300

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