Jing-Ke Weng

Jing-Ke Weng

Associate Professor of Biology; Member, Whitehead Institute

Jing-Ke Weng studies metabolic evolution in plants and explores the remarkable plant chemodiversity for new commodity chemicals and medicines.





Heather Ferguson



Assistant Phone


  • PhD, 2009, Purdue University
  • BS, 2003, Biotechnology, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Research Summary

We probe the origin and evolution of plant metabolism, as well as how plants exploit discrete small molecules to interact with their surrounding environments. We also use plant natural products with specific medicinal properties as chemical probes to query human disorders like metabolic syndromes and protein-misfolding diseases. Ultimately, we hope to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the "matrix effect" evident in many traditional herbal remedies.


  • Beckman Young Investigator Award, 2016
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, 2016
  • Searle Scholar, 2015
  • Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, 2014
  • American Society of Plant Biologists Early Career Award, 2014
  • Tansley Medal for Excellence in Plant Science, 2013

Recent Publications

  1. Plant Solutions for the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Historical Reflections and Future Perspectives. Weng, JK. 2020. Mol Plant , .
    doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2020.05.014PMID:32442649
  2. Structural basis for divergent and convergent evolution of catalytic machineries in plant aromatic amino acid decarboxylase proteins. Torrens-Spence, MP, Chiang, YC, Smith, T, Vicent, MA, Wang, Y, Weng, JK. 2020. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117, 10806-10817.
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1920097117PMID:32371491
  3. The chloroalkaloid (-)-acutumine is biosynthesized via a Fe(II)- and 2-oxoglutarate-dependent halogenase in Menispermaceae plants. Kim, CY, Mitchell, AJ, Glinkerman, CM, Li, FS, Pluskal, T, Weng, JK. 2020. Nat Commun 11, 1867.
    doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15777-wPMID:32313070
  4. Exploring Uncharted Territories of Plant Specialized Metabolism in the Postgenomic Era. Jacobowitz, JR, Weng, JK. 2020. Annu Rev Plant Biol 71, 631-658.
    doi: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-081519-035634PMID:32176525
  5. PBS3 and EPS1 Complete Salicylic Acid Biosynthesis from Isochorismate in Arabidopsis. Torrens-Spence, MP, Bobokalonova, A, Carballo, V, Glinkerman, CM, Pluskal, T, Shen, A, Weng, JK. 2019. Mol Plant 12, 1577-1586.
    doi: 10.1016/j.molp.2019.11.005PMID:31760159
  6. Engineering New Branches of the Kynurenine Pathway To Produce Oxo-(2-aminophenyl) and Quinoline Scaffolds in Yeast. Torrens-Spence, MP, Liu, CT, Weng, JK. 2019. ACS Synth Biol 8, 2735-2745.
    doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.9b00368PMID:31714755
  7. Exploration of icariin analog structure space reveals key features driving potent inhibition of human phosphodiesterase-5. Chau, Y, Li, FS, Levsh, O, Weng, JK. 2019. PLoS ONE 14, e0222803.
    doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222803PMID:31539416
  8. Independent evolution of rosmarinic acid biosynthesis in two sister families under the Lamiids clade of flowering plants. Levsh, O, Pluskal, T, Carballo, V, Mitchell, AJ, Weng, JK. 2019. J. Biol. Chem. 294, 15193-15205.
    doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA119.010454PMID:31481469
  9. The biosynthetic origin of psychoactive kavalactones in kava. Pluskal, T, Torrens-Spence, MP, Fallon, TR, De Abreu, A, Shi, CH, Weng, JK. 2019. Nat Plants 5, 867-878.
    doi: 10.1038/s41477-019-0474-0PMID:31332312
  10. Repeated evolution of cytochrome P450-mediated spiroketal steroid biosynthesis in plants. Christ, B, Xu, C, Xu, M, Li, FS, Wada, N, Mitchell, AJ, Han, XL, Wen, ML, Fujita, M, Weng, JK et al.. 2019. Nat Commun 10, 3206.
    doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-11286-7PMID:31324795
More Publications






Photo credit: Gretchen Ertl/Whitehead Institute