Cynthia K. Holland

Cynthia Holland

Assistant Professor of Biology

Thompson Biology Lab
At Williams since 2020


Ph.D. Washington University, Biology

Areas of Expertise

Plants are chemists that have spent the last 425 million years evolving enzymes to synthesize a diverse array of chemicals to communicate with their surroundings, reproduce, grow, develop, and defend themselves against biotic and abiotic stresses. My research generally aims to identify the molecular basis of the evolution of primary and secondary metabolism in plants. Methods used range from the organismal scale, where an insect predator is better able to feed on a plant when a gene is knocked-down, to the atomic scale, where a charge-charge interaction being replaced with a hydrogen bond allows an enzyme to gain a new function. Ultimately, discoveries from this research have potential biotechnological applications for agriculture, the environment, and human health.


Note: courses in gray are not offered this academic year.

Scholarship/Creative Work

Selected publications:

Holland CK, Westfall CS, Schaffer JE, De Santiago A, Zubieta C, Alvarez S, Jez JM (2019) Brassicaceae-specific Gretchen Hagen 3 acyl acid amido synthetases conjugate amino acids to chorismate, a precursor of aromatic amino acids and salicylic acid.  J Biol Chem 294, 16855-64

Holland CK, Jez JM (2018) Examining the reaction mechanism of prephenate dehydrogenase from the alternate tyrosine biosynthesis pathway in plants.  ChemBioChem 19, 1132-6

Holland CK, Berkovich DA, Kohn ML, Maeda H, Jez JM (2018) Structural basis for substrate recognition and inhibition of prephenate aminotransferase from Arabidopsis.  Plant J 94, 304-14

Kroll K*, Holland CK*, Starks CM, Jez JM (2017) Evolution of allosteric regulation in chorismate mutases from early plants.  Biochem J 474, 3705-17. *Equal contribution

Schenck CA*, Holland CK*, Schneider MR, Men Y, Lee SG, Jez JM, Maeda HA (2017) Molecular basis of the evolution of alternative tyrosine biosynthesis pathways in plants.  Nature Chem Biol 13, 1029-35. *Equal contribution

Awards, Fellowships & Grants

Journal of Biological Chemistry Early Career Reviewer

National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

ASBMB Experimental Biology Travel Award

William H. Danforth Plant Sciences Fellow

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

American Society of Pharmacognosy Undergraduate Research Award


Professional Affiliations

American Society of Plant Biologists and Northeast Section

American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

American Association for the Advancement of Science