Fang Chen

Research Professsor
Biological Sciences
Research Interests: 
  • Biotechnology for sustainable biofuel and bioproducts: plant cell walls bioengineering and lignin-based carbon fiber and high-value chemicals; altering lignin structure and composition to facilitate the lignin valorizations.
  • Biomass formation and modification: lignin bioengineering and its effect on biomass recalcitrance in bioenergy crops and in-depth mechanisms of plant cell wall recalcitrance. Creation of next generation low recalcitrance high-value biomass crops.
  • Metabolic engineering of plant natural products, secondary metabolite profiling, and high throughput cell wall analysis.
  • Genomic and genetic approaches to understanding plant cell wall biosynthesis and plant growth. EMS mutant screening and mapping-by-sequencing for mutant identification in cleome hasslariana.

Current Grants

• NSF (IOS). Biosynthesis, Regulation, and Engineering of C-Lignin. $833,000. 5/1/15-5/31/18 (Co-PI F. Chen).

• DOE BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). Lignin modification in switchgrass. $346,000. 10/1/12-11/30/17



Complete List Google Scholar


  1. Barros-Rios, J., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Chen, F., Baxter, D., Venables, D.J. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). Role of bifunctional ammonia-lyase in grass cell wall biosynthesis. Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.50.
  2. Ha, C.M., Escamilla‐Trevino, L., Serrani Yarce, J.C., Kim, H., Ralph, J., Chen, F. and Dixon, R.A. (2016). An essential role of caffeoyl shikimate esterase in monolignol biosynthesis in Medicago truncatula. The Plant Journal. DOI: 10.1111/tpj.13177.
  3. Nar, M., Rizvi, H.R., Dixon, R.A., Chen, F., Kovalcik, A. and D'Souza, N. (2016). Superior plant based carbon fibers from electrospun poly-(caffeyl alcohol) lignin. Carbon 103, 372-383.
  4. Srivastava, A.C., Chen, F., Ray, T., Pattathil, S., Peña, M.J., Avci, U., Li, H., Huhman, D.V., Backe, J. and Urbanowicz, B. (2015). Loss of function of folylpolyglutamate synthetase 1 reduces lignin content and improves cell wall digestibility in Arabidopsis. Biotechnology for biofuels 8, 224.
  5. Rao, X., Krom, N., Tang, Y., Widiez, T., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Belanger, F.C., Dixon, R.A. and Chen, F. (2014). A deep transcriptomic analysis of pod development in the vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia). BMC genomics 15(1):964.
  6. Ragauskas, A.J., Beckham, G.T., Biddy, M.J., Chandra, R., Chen, F., Davis, M.F., Davison, B.H., Dixon, R.A., Gilna, P. and Keller, M. (2014). Lignin valorization: improving lignin processing in the biorefinery. Science 344(6185):1246843.
  7. Tobimatsu, Y., Chen, F., Nakashima, J., Escamilla-Treviño, L.L., Jackson, L., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2013), Coexistence but independent biosynthesis of catechyl and guaiacyl/syringyl lignin polymers in seed coats. The Plant Cell 25(7):2587-2600.
  8. Shen, H., Mazarei, M., Hisano, H., Escamilla-Trevino, L., Fu, C., Pu, Y., Rudis, M.R., Tang, Y., Xiao, X., Jackson, L., Chen, F. et al. (2013). A genomics approach to deciphering lignin biosynthesis in switchgrass. The Plant Cell 25(11):4342-4361.
  9. Chen, F., Tobimatsu, Y., Jackson, L., Nakashima, J., Ralph, J. and Dixon, R.A. (2013): Novel seed coat lignins in the Cactaceae: structure, distribution and implications for the evolution of lignin diversity. The Plant Journal 73(2):201-211.
  10. Chen., F, Tobimatsu, Y., Havkin-Frenkel, D., Dixon, R.A. and Ralph, J. (2012). A polymer of caffeyl alcohol in plant seeds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(5):1772-1777.


  • Carbon fibers derived from poly-(caffeyl alcohol) (PCFA). R.A. Dixon, N. D’Souza, F. Chen and M. Nar. US patent 2016 pending.
  • Transcription factors for modification of lignin content in plants. H. Wang, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent 9,045,549, 2015.
  • Compositions and methods for improved plant feedstock. H. Shen, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent US 8,901,371 B2. 2014.
  • Plants with modified lignin content and methods for production thereof. Q. Zhao, F. Chen and R.A. Dixon. US Patent US 8,796,509, 2014.
  • Caffeoyl CoA reductase. R. Zhou, R.A. Dixon and F. Chen. US provisional patent application 13/181,284. 2011.
  • Modification of lignin biosynthesis. R.A. Dixon, M.S.S. Reddy and F. Chen. United States Patent, US. 7,663,023 B2. 2010.
  • Modification of lignin biosynthesis. R.A. Dixon, M.S.S. Reddy and F. Chen. New Zealand patent 552941. 2013.