SEED BIOLOGY
UNDERSTANDING HOW THESE COMPLEX ENTITIES FUNCTION
PROF. ZHAO'S LAB
The Zhao Lab: Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Life Sciences, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, P. R. China 

 My very first Post-doc hired to work on the Raffinose Family Oligosaccharides (RFOs) in maize seeds was Dr. Tianyong Zhao. Tianyong was very well acquainted with maize and made great strides demonstrating that many of the RAFFINOSE SYNTHASE genes that had been identified to that point, actually encoded enzymes that had, instead, an alpha-galactosidase activity. These enzymes are, rather, ALKALINE ALPHA GALACTOSIDASEs (AGAs). Tianyong showed that the promoter for one of these ZmAGAs was among one of the most strongly responsive to both heat- and dehydration-stress.
 

Fast forward a number of years and Professor Zhao is the head of a very productive lab examining the role of RFOs in mitigating reduced maize productivity due to drought- and heat-stress. Their work on the transcriptional networks regulating the pathway due to stress or during seed development continues to unveil a complex system of feed-forward/backward controls of transcription for genes whose products are involved in RFO metabolism. Their elucidation of the dependence of the catalytic reaction of RAFFINOSE SYNTHASE on the relative abundance of its substrates remains a fascinating biochemical phenomenon that they have linked directly to the protective capacity of many metabolites in the pathway leading to raffinose production. Fortunately for me, Tianyong has encouraged us to continue to collaborate with him and his vibrant lab! 
Zhao lab, 2018: Left to right: Back row: Mr. Yumin ZHANG; Mr. Ying LIU; Mr. Kelu CHEN; Mr. Qinghui HAN; Mr. Xudong LI; Mr. Tao JIANG (MSc); Ms. Mengqi LV. Middle row: Mr. Dong YAN; Dr. A. Bruce DOWNIE; Prof. Tianyong ZHAO; Dr. Lynnette DIRK; Dr. Lei GU; Mr. Tao JIANG; Mr. Qichao SUN. Front row: Ms. Wenjin ZHAO; Ms. Yinggang GAO; Ms. Chunxia ZHANG.
Zhao lab, 2017: Left to right: Mr. Qichao SUN; Ms. Xi LIU; Mr. Tao JIANG; Ms. Chunxia ZHANG; Mr. Xudong LI; Mr. Guanglong HAO; Mr. Qinghui HAN; Dr. A. Bruce DOWNIE; Dr. Tao LI; Prof. Tianyong ZHAO; Mr. Lei GU; Mr. Dong WANG; Mr. Ying LIU; Mr. Yumin ZHANG; Ms. Mengqi LV.
Zhao Lab, 2015: Left to right: Mr. Ying LIU; Mr. Tao JIANG; Dr. Jingjing LINGHU; Mr. Dong WANG; Ms. Mengqi LV; Mr. Yumin ZHANG; Dr. Lynnette DIRK; Dr. A. Bruce DOWNIE; Mr. Mingshuai ZHANG; Prof. Tianyong ZHAO; Mr. Xin WEI; Ms. Run SUN; Mr. Lei GU; Ms. Chunxia ZHANG; Mr. Tao LI; Ms Xi LIU; Mr. Qinghui HAN.
Zhao Lab, 2014: Left to right: Mr. Jinsong WEI; Ms. Xi LIU, Mr. Qinghui HAN; Mr. Ying LIU; Mr. Lifeng ZHANG, Prof. Tianyong ZHAO; Mr. Mingshuai ZHANG; Mr. Tao LI; Mr Dong WANG; Mr. Lei GU; Mr Yumin ZHANG; Mr. Jun YAN.