Mauricio Antunes | BioDiscovery Institute

Mauricio Antunes

Assistant Professor

Mauricio Antunes, Ph.D. received his B.S. degree in Agronomy and M.S. degree in Crop Sciences from the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil. He then moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, where he earned a Ph.D. degree in Plant Molecular Biology at Purdue University, under the supervision of Nick Carpita and Tom Hodges. After completing his doctoral degree, Antunes joined June Medford's group at Colorado State University as a postdoctoral fellow, where he was involved in pioneering work in plant synthetic biology to rationally engineer plants to function as sensitive and specific sensors of substances of interest to humans. After spending one year working in Maureen McCann's lab at the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio) at Purdue University, Antunes returned to Colorado State University in 2010 as a Research Assistant Professor in the Biology Department. In 2018, Dr. Antunes joined the Department of Biological Sciences and the BioDiscovery Institute at UNT. Research in Dr. Antunes' lab centers on the development and application of tools from the emerging field of synthetic biology to engineer plants with novel traits that function in a predictable and tunable manner to result in improved bioproduction.


  • Development of synthetic transcriptional and post-transcriptional control systems whose behavior can be modulated by specific inputs.

  • Small RNAs as mobile signaling molecules in plants.

  • Engineering complex synthetic genetic circuits to improve plant production and biosynthesis.

  • Re-wiring metabolic pathways in plants using gene regulatory controls.

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  • Establishing the biochemical determinants of microRNA long-distance mobility in plants. The Welch Foundation. PI: Antunes, $240,000 (6/1/2021 - 5/31/2024)


  1. Ferreira, S.S., Antunes, M.S. (2024) Genetically encoded Boolean logic operators to sense and integrate phenylpropanoid metabolite levels in plants. Pre-print available at bioRxiv.
  2. Ferreira, S.S., Anderson, C.E., Antunes, M.S. (2023) A logical way to reprogram plants. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 654: 80-86.
  3. Ferreira, S.S., Anderson, C.E., Antunes, M.S. (2023) A logical way to reprogram plants. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 654: 80-86.
  4. Amack, S.C.; Ferreira, S.S.; Antunes, M.S. (2023) Tuning the Transcriptional Activity of the CaMV 35S Promoter in Plants by Single-Nucleotide Changes in the TATA Box. ACS Synthetic Biology 12(1): 178-185. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.2c00457.
  5. Ferreira, S.S.; Antunes, M.S. (2021) Re-engineering plant phenylpropanoid metabolism with the aid of synthetic biosensors. Frontiers in Plant Science 12:701385. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2021.701385.
  6. Amack, S.C.; Antunes, M.S. (2020) CaMV35S promoter - A plant biology and biotechnology workhorse in the era of synthetic biology. Current Plant Biology 24: 100179. doi: 10.1016/j.cpb.2020.1001792.
  7. Kassaw, T.K.; Donayre-Torres, A.J.; Antunes, M.S.; Morey, K.J.; Medford, J.I. (2018) Engineering Synthetic Regulatory Circuits in Plants. Plant Science 273: 13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.plantsci.2018.04.005.
  8. Bick, M.J.; Greisen, P.J.; Morey, K.J.; Antunes, M.S.; La, D.; Sankaran, B.; Reymond, L.; Johnsson, K.; Medford, J.I.; Baker, D. (2017) Computational design of environmental sensors for the potent opioid fentanyl. eLife 6: e28909. doi:10.7554/eLife.28909.
  9. Yang, H.; Wei, H.; Ma, G.; Antunes, M.S.; Cox, J.; Zhang, X.; Liu, X.; Himmel, M.E.; Tucker, M.P.; McCann, M.C.; Murphy, A.S.; Peer, W.A. (2016) In planta iron delivery produces a dual system for enhancement of biomass conversion and iron nutrition in rice. Plant Biotechnology Journal 14(10): 1998-2009. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12557.
  10. Schaumberg, K.*; Antunes, M.S.*; Kassaw, T.K.; Xu, W.; Zalewski, C.S.; Medford, J.I.; Prasad, A. (2016) Quantitative methods for characterization of parts and circuits for plant synthetic biology. Nature Methods 13(1): 94-100. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3659 (*co-first authors).
  11. Antunes, M.S.; Hodges, T.K.; Carpita, N.C. (2016) A benzoate-activated promoter from Aspergillus niger and regulation of its activity. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology 100: 5479-5489. doi: 10.1007/s00253-016- 7373-3
  12. Feng, J.; Jester, B.W.; Tinberg, C.E.; Mandell, D.J.; Antunes, M.S.; Chari, R.; Morey, K.J.; Rios, X.; Medford, J.I.; Church, G.; Fields, S.; Baker, D. (2015) A general strategy to construct small molecule biosensors in eukaryotes. eLife 4: e10606. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10606.
  13. Antunes, M.S.; Smith, J.J.; Jantz, D.; Medford, J.I. (2012) Targeted DNA excision in Arabidopsis by a re-engineered homing endonuclease. BMC Biotechnology 12: 86. doi: 10.1186/1472-6750-12-86
  14. Morey, K.J.; Antunes, M.S.; Barrow, M.J.; Solorzano, F.A.; Havens, K.L.; Smith, J.J.; Medford, J.I. (2012) Crosstalk between endogenous and synthetic components - synthetic signaling meets endogenous components. Biotechnology Journal 7: 846-855. doi: 10.1002/biot.201100487.
  15. Antunes, M.S.; Morey, K.J.; Smith, J.J.; Albrecht, K.D.; Bowen, T.A.; Zdunek, J.K.; Troupe, J.F.; Hellinga, H.W.; Medford, J.I. (2011) Programmable ligand detection system in plants through a synthetic signal transduction pathway. PLoS ONE 6(1): e16292. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016292.


  1. Benzoate-inducible promoters. Thomas K Hodges, Mauricio S Antunes, Nicholas C Carpita - US Patent # 7,705,203 - April 27, 2010
  2. Biological input-output response system and plant sentinels. June I Medford, Mauricio S Antunes, Kevin J Morey, John Jeff Smith, Homme W Hellinga - US Patent # 8,148,605 - April 3, 2012
  3. Biological systems input-output response system and plant sentinels. June I Medford, Mauricio S Antunes - US Patent # 9,062,320 - June 23, 2015
  4. Synthetic desalination genetic circuit in plants. June I Medford, Kevin J Morey, Tessema Kassaw, Mauricio S Antunes - US Patent # 11,692,199-B2 - July 04, 2023
  5. Compositions and methods for detection of small molecules. June I Medford, Mauricio S Antunes, Kevin J Morey, Benjamin Jester, Christine Tinberg, Stanley Fields, David Baker, Matthew Bick - US Patent App. 15/392,962 - 2017
  6. Synthetic repression of gene expression in plants. June I Medford, Mauricio S Antunes, Tessema K Kassaw - US Patent App. 15/787,562 - 2018