Christendat Lab

Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto

Lab Members

Current Team

Dr. Dinesh Christendat (Full Professor) 

Research interests: Structural and Functional characterization of plant proteins. Areas of interest include: recombinant expression and purification of proteins, enzymology for functional identification and characterization of proteins, X-ray crystallography for protein structure determination and analysis, mass spectrometry for protein identification and characterization.  Development of novel approaches to investigate metabolic flux in vivo in both plants and microbes.  Production of novel bioproducts from plant and microbial materials.


Artyom Gritsunov, PhD Candidate

Artyom obtained his Undergraduate Biochemistry degree at The University of Toronto  St. George campus in 2015. He did his 4th year research thesis project at St. Michael’s Hospital under Professor Gregory Fairn’s supervision. The purpose of the project was to study the role of flippases in cancer cells.
Currently he is a third year PhD candidate. Artyom investigates the role of Quinate and Quinate dehydrogenases in Chlorogenic acid biosynthesis in plants.

He is hoping to develop skills in Enzymology, Structural Biology and CRISPR. During his free time, Artyom enjoys weightlifting, swimming, biking, barbecuing, sudoku and chess.


Elina Kadriu, M.Sc Candidate

Elina is a M.Sc. student at UofT studying developmental biology. She will be working under the supervision of Dr. Dinesh Christendat to determine the regulatory mechanisms of a transcriptional regulator in Pseudomonas putida. On her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, as well as going out on long walks.


 Michael Kanaris, PhD Candidate

Michael entered the Life Sciences program at University of Toronto, Mississauga (UTM) and acquired an Honours Bachelor of Science degree with a specialist in molecular biology and minor in chemistry. Michael’s current research under the supervision of Dr. Dinesh Christendat broadly involves investigating the role of an ancient plant enzyme, termed shikimate kinase-like 1 (SKL1), that has been shown to be critical for chloroplast development in Arabidopsis thaliana. Chloroplast biology is highly important as it is one of the unique and defining principles of plant biology involved in the fixation of atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic sugars. This biology holds importance at all ecological levels by providing the most basic organic sugars necessary for chemical energy formation required by complex organisms, and by providing a balance of carbon flow for our atmosphere that is vital for sustaining all biological life. Michael’s ongoing research involves determining the molecular processes that SKL1 plays in Arabidopsis thaliana and the evolutionarily ancient moss Physcomitrella patens.

 Contact: LinkedIn

Jonathan Lee, MSc Candidate

Jonathan graduated from Queen’s University in 2017. He obtained a B.Sc. with a major in Biochemistry and a minor in French Studies. His research interests include structural biology, protein-protein interactions, proteomics, and molecular pharming. As a M.Sc. student in the Christendat lab, he is currently investigating the role of the SKL1 gene in Physcomitrella patens. Outside of the lab, Jonathan enjoys reading, writing, cooking, hockey, and movies.

Contact: LinkedIn

Dr. Stephanie Prezioso (Alumni as of 2017)

Before starting her PhD in the Christendat lab, Stephanie received her BSc in Genetics at the University of Western Ontario. She is interested in bacterial metabolism, and how different metabolic pathways are regulated. Her current project focuses on elucidating the mechanism of transcriptional regulation for the genes encoding enzymes involved in the quinate metabolic pathway in Listeria monocytogenes. She obtained her doctorate degree in 2017.

In her spare time, Stephanie likes to paint, portage/camp, and practice circus arts such as partner balancing and aerial silks. She has incorporated her love of circus and dance into her love of science by entering the Dance Your PhD contest put on by Science Magazine! View her entry. Stephanie is currently a Scientific Liaison at BenchSci.

Contact: LinkedIn

Jilei(Sophie) Qin, MSc (Alumni as of 2018)

Jilei did her undergrad in Cell and Molecular Biology with focuses on genetics and epigenetics. She did two co-op terms at the Hospital of Sick Children under the guidance of Dr. Elise Heon, studying mutations linked to degenerative eye diseases before conducting a thesis project under Dr. Patrick McGowan looking into genetic impacts on epigenetic progressions associated with anxiety and depression. Now she’s looking to switch gears a bit and move from studying mammalian systems to microbial ones with a greater lean on proteomics than genetics.
Jilei’s research right now revolves around how environmental concentrations of secondary metabolites affect bacterial ability to synthesize siderophores and how the changes in these capabilities alter rhizospheric microbiomes. Through this she hopes to better understand how bacteria respond to resource changes as a community and learn ways to shift rhizospheric microbiome compositions to benefit crop health.

Jilei is also a big fan of astronomy and keen on the issues of environmental and social justice. Outside of the lab she likes to attend astronomy talks and participate in political events surrounding issues on human rights, environmental protection, and inequality.


Kevin Xue, PhD Candidate

After attending McGill University for his B.Sc. in Microbiology and Biotechnology, Kevin continued his academic journey in the Christendat Lab. He is now investigating the protocatechuate biosynthesis in the foodborne pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, for his PhD project.  In his spare time, he can be found accidentally implementing bugs into the lab website.

Contact: LinkedIn



Undergraduate Students

Patrick Ly

Patrick is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, specializing in Physiology. He assists with general laboratory maintenance, and occasionally participates in the graduate students’ projects. He is currently aiding with the Arabidopsis thaliana DAHP synthase a project to prepare his laboratory techniques for future projects. In his leisure time, he enjoys playing badminton.

Cindy Hong

Cindy is a fourth year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto majoring in genome biology and neuroscience. Currently, she is investigating the regulatory role of QuiR2 in Listeria monocytogenes’ protocatechuate biosynthesis. In her free time, she enjoys sleeping and dancing.

Helen (Chenxiu) Liu (Alumni as of 2017)

Helen completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto majoring in genome biology and human biology. She completed a thesis project in the Christendat lab on mechanism of transcriptional regulation for genes encoding enzymes in the bacteria metabolism. Before joining the Christendat lab, she did a project in the Hospital of Sick Children under the supervision of Dr. Vito Mennella on centrin calcium sensors in mammalian cell lines, and another project in TsingHua University with Dr. Yi Zhong on induced photo- stimulation of channel rhodopsin 2 in Drosophila. Her research interests includes protein structures, cellular structure and proteomics. She currently attends York University as a M.Sc. candidate in Dr. Vivian Saridakis’ lab.

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