Joshua Widhalm

Joshua Widhalm Profile Picture

Assistant Professor Ph.D. Agronomy via the Center for Plant Science Innovation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2011

Contact Info:

Training Group(s):
Plant Biology

Active Mentor - currently hosting PULSe students for laboratory rotations and recruiting PULSe students into the laboratory; serves on preliminary exam committees

Current Research Interests:

Dr. Widhalm’s research program is focused on plant allelochemicals, natural products released into the environment that influence the growth and development of other species.  He is particularly interested in elucidating the biosynthesis of allelopathic naphthoquinones and investigating their metabolic connection with quinones involved in respiration and photosynthesis.  His research on allelopathic naphthoquinones also encompasses deciphering the molecular mechanisms involved in their release into the environment, determining their biochemical modes of action, and exploring their roles in promoting (a)biotic stress resistance.  The long term goal of Dr. Widhalm’s research program is to translate the gained basic knowledge into innovative strategies to harness plant allelochemicals for crop improvement.  Dr. Widhalm is also working on identifying new naturally-occurring derivatives of plant naphthoquinones, which have emerged as promising anti-cancer drugs.

Selected Publications:

Widhalm JR, Jaini, R, Morgan JA, and Dudareva N. (2015) Rethinking how volatiles are released from plant cells. Trends in Plant Science, 20(9):545-550.

Press release:,-not-just-physics,-controls-release-of-scent-compounds-from-plants.html

Widhalm JR, Gutensohn M, Yoo H, Adebesin F, Qian Y, Guo L, Jaini R, Lynch JH, McCoy RM, Shreve JT, Thimmapuram J, Rhodes D, Morgan JA, and Dudareva N. (2015) Identification of a plastidial phenylalanine exporter that influences flux distribution through the phenylalanine biosynthetic network. Nature Commun, 6:8142, DOI:10.1039/ncomms9142.

Widhalm JR and Dudareva N. (2015) A familiar ring to it: biosynthesis of plant benzoic acids. Mol Plant, 8(1):83-97.

Block A, Widhalm JR, Fatihi A, Cahoon RE, Wamboldt Y, Elowsky C, Mackenzie SA, Cahoon EB, Chapple C, Dudareva N, and Basset GJC (2014) The origin and biosynthesis of the benzenoid moiety of ubiquinone (coenzyme Q) in arabidopsis.  Plant Cell, 26(5):1938-1948.

Yoo, H, Widhalm JR, Qian Y, Maeda H, Cooper BR, Jannasch AS, Gonda I, Lewinsohn E, Rhodes D, Dudareva N (2013) A microbial-like pathway contributes to phenylalanine biosynthesis in plants via a cytosolic tyrosine:phenylpyruvate aminotransferase. Nature Commun, 4:2833, DOI:10.1038/ncomms3833.

Press release:

Furt F, Allen WJ, Widhalm JR, Madzelan P, Rizzo RC, Basset G, Wilson MA (2013) Functional convergence of structurally distinct thioesterases from cyanobacteria and plants involved in phylloquinone biosynthesis. Acta Crystallogr, Sect D: Biol Crystallogr (research paper), 69(Pt 10):1876-88.

Qualley AV, Widhalm JR, Adebesin F, Kish CM, Dudareva N (2012) Completion of the core b-oxidative pathway of benzoic acid biosynthesis in plants. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 109(40): 16383-8.     

Press release:

Widhalm JR, Ducluzeau AL, Buller NE, Elowsky CG, Olsen LJ, and Basset GJC (2012) Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1) biosynthesis in plants: two peroxisomal thioesterases of Lactobacillales origin hydrolyze 1,4-dihydroxy-2-naphthoyl-CoA. Plant J, 71(2): 205-15.

Klempien A, Kaminaga Y, Qualley A, Nagegowda DA, Widhalm JR, Orlova I, Shasany AK, Taguchi G, Kish CM, Cooper BR, D’Auriae JC, Rhodes D, Pichersky E, and Dudareva N (2012) The contribution of CoA ligases to the biosynthesis of benzenoids in petunia flowers. Plant Cell, 24(5): 2015-30.

Xu YZ, Arrieta-Montiel MP, Wamboldt YJ, Virdi K, de Paula WBM, Widhalm JR, Basset GJ, Davila JI, Elthon TE, Elowsky CG, Sato SJ, Clemente TE, and Mackenzie SA (2011) MSH1 is a nucleoid protein that alters mitochondrial and plastid properties and plant response to high light. Plant Cell, 23: 3428-41.

van Oostende C, Widhalm JR, Furt F, Ducluzeau AL, Basset GJC (2011) Phylloquinone (Vitamin K1): function, enzymes and genes. in Advances in Botanical Research, eds Fabrice Rébeillé and Roland Douce, 59: 229-61, Academic Press (Amsterdam).

Furt F, van Oostende C, Widhalm JR, Dale MA, Wertz J, and Basset GJC (2010) A bimodular oxidoreductase mediates the specific reduction of phylloquinone (vitamin K1) in chloroplasts.  Plant J, 64: 38-46.

Widhalm JR, van Oostende C, Furt F, and Basset GJC (2009) A dedicated thioesterase of the Hotdog-fold family is required for the biosynthesis of the naphthoquinone ring of vitamin K1. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 106(14): 5599–5603.

van Oostende C*,Widhalm JR*,and Basset GJC(2008)Detection and quantification of vitamin K1quinol in leaf tissues.Phytochemistry,69:2457–2462.  (*co-first author)

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