John Clark Lagarias

Clark Lagarias headshot

Position Title
Distinguished Professor Emeritus

  • Molecular and Cellular Biology

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory focuses on the phytochrome superfamily, light sensing biliproteins that are widespread in eukaryotes (plants, algae, fungi, oomycetes and diatoms) and prokaryotes (both photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic species). Phytochromes and cyanobacteriochromes are light-switches whose function depends on the light color. Plants, algae and cyanobacteria use these pigmented protein sensors to regulate photosynthesis-associated gene expression for optimum photosynthesis under the ambient light conditions and for regulation of growth, movement or reproduction to avoid suboptimal light conditions. Our studies utilize representative species from all lineages of oxygenic photosynthetic organisms, including cyanobacteria, green alga and plants. Mainly biochemical in nature, our research focuses on structure-function and molecular evolution of these optogenetic light sensors. Ongoing research seeks to leverage this knowledge for synthetic biological applications that seek to optimize yield and agronomic performance of photosynthetic species for food, fiber and energy production.

Education and Degree(s)
  • 1975 B.A. in Botany and Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1979 Ph.D. in Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley
  • Willows, R. D., J. C. Lagarias and D. Duanmu (2023) Tetrapyrrole biosynthesis and signaling (chlorophyll, heme, and bilins). The Chlamydomonas Sourcebook - Volume 2: Organellar and Metabolic Processes A. R. Grossman and F. A. Wollman. San Diego, CA, Academic Press: 691-731 Link
  • Rockwell, N. C., S. S. Martin and J. C. Lagarias (2023) Elucidating the origins of phycocyanobilin biosynthesis and phycobiliproteins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120(17): e2300770120. PMID: 37071675 PMCID: PMC10151467
  • Rockwell, N. C. and J. C. Lagarias (2023) GUN4 appeared early in cyanobacterial evolution. PNAS Nexus 2(5): pgad131. PMID: 37152672 PMCID: PMC10156173
  • Rockwell, N.C., Moreno, M.V. Martin, S.S. and Lagarias, J.C. (2022) Protein–chromophore interactions controlling photoisomerization in red/green cyanobacteriochromes. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences. in press
  • Zhang, W., Willows, R.D., Deng, R., Li, Z., Li, M., Wang, Y., Guo, Y., Shi, W., Fan, Q., Martin, S.S., Rockwell, N.C., Lagarias, J.C. and Duanmu, D. (2021) Bilin-dependent regulation of chlorophyll biosynthesis by GUN4. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 118(20), e2104443118. . PMID: 33975960