Dan Kliebenstein

Dan Kliebenstein

Position Title
Plant Biology Graduate Group Chair; Professor

  • Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
  • Center for Population Biology
  • Genome Center
129 Asmundson Hall

Research Interests

Quantitative Systems Biology

We focus on two major questions using plant natural chemistry as our model system. Plant natural chemistry generates compounds that provide the taste, flavor, color and medicinal activities that people associate with specific plants. However, their primary role appears to be helping the plant cope with its environment by attracting pollinators, repelling attackers and protecting the plant from sunlight. These aspects make these compounds easy to measure and key tools in understanding modern systems biology and genomics. The first question that we use these chemicals for is to understand how thousands of genes coordinate within a system to control the proper functioning of the system. This involved modern quantitative genomics and tools such as genome wide association mapping and QTL analysis. We are at the forefront of developing network analysis approaches and theory to help with the modern synthesis of the gene-to-phenotype linkage. The second question we focus on is why plants make these chemicals. They have broad activities and plants make an amazing diversity of chemicals, each potentially with its own function and evolutionary history. We are primarily using the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, to study how its secondary metabolites control interactions with both insects and fungi. As a part of this we are using a mixture of functional genetics, quantitative genetics, plant biology, evolutionary biology and metabolite profiling to develop as in depth and broad a picture as possible. To broaden this picture, we are expanding into rice, tomato, Lycopersicon, and grapes, Vitis. An additional avenue that we are pursuing is the fact that fungi also make secondary metabolites. For instance, Botrytis cinerea produces a suite of secondary metabolites whose main role appears to be killing plant cells. Thus by studying how Arabidopsis and Botrytis interact, we hope to analyze how organisms can combat each other through metabolism. We are expanding our quantitative systems approaches to study genetic variation in both the host and pathogen of this system simultaneously.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics
  • Plant Biology
  • Population Biology

Specialties / Focus

  • Environmental and Integrative Biology
  • Model Plants
  • Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Genomics
  • Plant Breeding


  • BIS 101 Genes and Gene Regulation, Winter


  • Kliebenstein http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/kliebenstein/


  • 1993 BS Genetics Iowa State University
  • 1999 PhD Genetics Cornell University


Zhang, W., Corwin, J.A., Eshbaugh, R., Copeland, D., Feusier, J., Chen, F., Atwell, S. and D.J. Kliebenstein (2017) Plastic transcriptomes stabilize immunity to pathogen diversity: The jasmonic acid and salicylic acid networks within the Arabidopsis/Botrytis pathosystem. Plant Cell 29(11)2727-2752.

Kerwin, R.E., Feusier, J., Rubin, M., Corwin, J.A., Lin, C., Muok, A., Larson, B., Li, B., Joseph, B., Francisco, M., Copeland, D., Weinig, C. and D.J. Kliebenstein. (2017) Epistatic by Environment Interactions Among Arabidopsis thaliana Glucosinolate Genes Impact Complex Traits and Fitness in the Field. New Phytologist 215(3)1249-1263.

Malinovsky, F.G., Thomsen, M-L.F., Nintemann, S.J., Jagd, L.M., Bourgine, B., Burow, M. and D.J. Kliebenstein. (Online) An evolutionarily young defense metabolite, 3-hydroxypropyl glucosinolate, influences the root growth of plants via the ancient TOR signaling pathway. eLife 6:e29353.

Wisecaver, J.H., Borowsky, A.T., Tzin, V., Jander, G., Kliebenstein, D.J. and A. Rokas (2017) A global co-expression network approach for connecting genes to specialized metabolic pathways in plants. Plant Cell 29(5)944-959.

Corwin, J.A., Copeland, D., Feusier, J., Subedy, A., Eshbaugh, R., Palmer, C., Maloof, J. and D.J. Kliebenstein (2016) The Quantitative Basis of the Arabidopsis Innate Immune System to Endemic Pathogens Depends on Pathogen Genetics. PLoS Genetics 12(2):e1005789.

Chan, E.K.F., Rowe, H.C., Corwin, J.A. Joseph, B. and D.J. Kliebenstein. (2011) “Combining genome-wide association mapping and transcriptional networks to identify novel genes controlling glucosinolates in Arabidopsis thaliana”. PLoS Biology 9(8)e1001125

Chan, E.K.F., Rowe, H.C., Hansen, B.G, and Kliebenstein, D.J. (2010) “The complex genetic architecture of the metabolome”. PLoS Genetics 6(11)e1001198

Osbourn, AE and D.J. Kliebenstein (2012) “Making new molecules – evolution of pathways for novel metabolites in plants” Current Opinion in Plant Biology 15(4)415-23.

Hageman Blair, R. Kliebenstein, D.J. and G.A. Churchill. (2012) “What can causal networks tell us about metabolic pathways” PLoS Computational Biology 8(4)e1002458

Jimenez-Gomez, J.M., Corwin, J.A., Joseph, B., Maloof, J.N. and Kliebenstein, D.J. (2011) “Genomic analysis of QTLs and genes altering natural variation in stochastic noise” PLoS Genetics 7(9)e1002295

Züst, T., Shimizu, K., Joseph, B., Kliebenstein, D.J. and L.A. Turnbull. (2011). “Using knockout mutants to reveal the costs of defensive plant secondary metabolites”. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 278(1718)2598-2603

Bidart-Bouzat, M.G. and D.J. Kliebenstein. (2011) “An ecological genomic approach challenging the paradigm of differential plant responses to specialist versus generalist insect herbivores”. Oceologia 167(3)677-89

Chan, E.K.F., Rowe, H.C. and Kliebenstein, D.J. (2010) “Understanding the evolution of defense metabolites in Arabidopsis thaliana using genome-wide association mapping” Genetics 185(3)991-1007

Kliebenstein, D.J., West, M.A.L, van Leeuwen, H., Kim, K., Doerge, R.W., and D.A. St. Clair. (2006) Identification of QTL Controlling Gene Expression Networks Defined A Prioiri. BMC Bioinformatics 7(1):308.

Brown, B.A., Cloix, C., Jiang, G.H., Kaiserli, E., Herzyk, P., Kliebenstein, D.J. and G.I. Jenkins. (2005) A UV-B-specific signaling component orchestrates plant UV-protection. (In press) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA