Dr. Xiao Qiu Professor

Department of Food and Bioproduct Sciences
University of Saskatchewan
51 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK
Canada S7N 5A8

Brief Bio

Dr. Xiao Qiu obtained his doctorate in plant molecular biology from the University of Guelph. After graduation, he spent two years as Research Associate in the Plant Biotechnology Institute, National Research Council of Canada, and a few years in the food industry first as Research Scientist and later as Research Director. After that, he moved to the University of Saskatchewan as a faculty member to set up an institutional lipid and food biotechnology program. 


Ph.D. (Plant Molecular Biology), University of Guelph, CANADA

M.Sc. (Plant Physiology), Southwest University, CHINA

B.A.  (Plant Science), Southwest University, CHINA

Research Area(s)

The overall goal of my research program is to understand molecular mechanisms underlying the biosynthesis of lipid molecules and other food nutritional compounds in plants and microorganisms using molecular biology, genomics and biochemistry approaches. Such compounds may either play essential roles in the growth and development or have potential applications as dietary supplements and industrial bioproducts. The knowledge gained from the program contributes to our understanding of the biosynthesis and accumulation of these compounds, and provides strategies for metabolic engineering of these compounds in plants and microorganisms.

1.      Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Very long chain-polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLCPUFAs) such as arachidonic acid (ARA, 20:4n-6), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) are essential for human health and well-being. However, the current sources for these valuable compounds are limited and not sustainable in the long term. This research theme probes the mechanistic insights into the biosynthesis of these fatty acids as well as other new VLCPUFAs with health-promoting properties to provide strategies for metabolic engineering of these VLCPUFAs in heterologous systems, particularly in oilseed crops. 

2.      Unusual Fatty Acids

Many microbial and plant species produce unusual fatty acids that differ in terms of chain length, position and number of unsaturated bonds, or possession of functional groups from the fatty acids commonly found in edible oils. The structural differences make these fatty acids very valuable for manufacturing of industrial products such as lubricants, functional fluids, solvents, plastics, paints and cosmetics. This research theme aims to understand the networks of enzymatic and non-enzymatic processes that are responsible for the biosynthesis and accumulation of unusual fatty acids.

3.      Biological Waxes

Biological wax, an ester of a fatty acid and a fatty alcohol, has potential use in the pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and industrial bioproducts. This research theme interrogates the biosynthesis of biological wax esters from non-plant origins for industrial uses.

4.      Nutritional Compounds in Oat

Oat produces several unique nutritional compounds such as avenathramide, beta-glucan, avenin and avenasterol. This research theme aims to study their biosynthesis and help genetically improve oat nutritional value.


Undergraduate course:

FABS 211: Introductory Bioproduct Science

FABS 411: Lipid Science and Technology

PLSC 416: Applied Plant Biotechnology

FABS 492/4: Literature/Research Thesis

Graduate course:

FDSC 811: Plant and Microbial Lipids

FDSC 855: Functional Genomics in Food & Bioproducts

FDSC 898: Molecular Techniques in Agricultural Biology

Selected Publications

Meesapyodsuk D, Sun K, Zhou R, Thoms K, Qiu X* (2023). Stepwise metabolic engineering of docosatrienoic acid - an ω3 very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid with potential health benefits in Brassica carinata. Plant Biotechnol J. 21: 8–10.

Meesapyodsuk D*, Chen Y, Ye S, Chapman RG, Qiu X* (2021): Co-expressing Eranthis hyemalis lysophosphatidic acid acyltransferase 2 and elongase improves two very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid production in Brassica carinata. Metabolic Engineering Commun. 2021 Apr 7;12:e00171. 

Almendáriz-Palacios C, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2021): Functional Analysis of an Acyltransferase-Like Domain from Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Synthase in Thraustochytrium. Microorganisms. 2021 Mar 17;9(3):626. 

Chen Y, Qiu X, Yang J (2020): Comparing the In Vitro Antitumor, Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Activities between Two New Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Docosadienoic Acid (DDA) and Docosatrienoic Acid (DTA), and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Nutr Cancer. 2020 Aug 11:1-11. 

Qiu X*, Xie X, Meesapyodsuk D (2020): Molecular mechanisms for biosynthesis and assembly of nutritionally important very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in microorganisms. Progress in Lipid Research, 79:101047.  (invited review)

Xie X, Sun K, Meesapyodsuk D, Miao Y, Qiu X* (2020): Distinct functions of two FabA-like dehydratase domains of polyunsaturated fatty acid synthase in the biosynthesis of very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Environmental Microbiology, 2020 Sep; 22(9):3772-3783.

Withana-Gamage TS, Hegedus DD, McIntosh TC, Coutu C, Qiu X, Wanasundara JPD. (2020): Subunit composition affects formation and stabilization of o/w emulsions by 11S seed storage protein cruciferin. Food Research International, 2020 Nov; 137:109387.

Li Z, Chen Y, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2019): The biosynthetic pathway of major avenanthramides in oat. Metabolites, 9:163-175.

Xie X, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2019) Enhancing oil production in Arabidopsis through expression of a ketoacyl-ACP synthase domain of the PUFA synthase from Thraustochytrium. Biotechnol Biofuels. 12:172-179.

Zhao X, Qiu X* (2019): Very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids accumulated in triacylglycerol are channeled from phosphatidylcholine in Thraustochytrium. Frontiers in Microbiology, 10: 645-652.

Meesapyodsuk D, Ye S, Chen Y, Chen Yi, Chapman RG, Qiu X* (2018): An engineered oilseed crop produces oil enriched in two new very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids with health-promoting properties. Metabolic Engineering, 49:192-200.

Zhao X, Qiu X* (2018): Analysis of the biosynthetic process of fatty acids in Thraustochytrium. Biochimie, 144:108-114.

Xie X, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2018): Functional analysis of the dehydratase domains of a PUFA synthase from Thraustochytrium in Escherichia coli. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology, 102:847-856.

Benaragama I, Meesapyodsuk D, Beattie AD, Qiu X* (2017): Identification and functional analysis of new peroxygenases in oat. Planta, 246:711–719.

Song D, Wu G, Vrinten P, Qiu X* (2017): Development of imidazolinone herbicide tolerant borage (Borago officinalis L.). Plant Science, 262: 74-80.

Xie X, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2017): Ketoacylsynthase domains of a PUFA synthase in Thraustochytrium can effectively function as stand-alone enzymes in Escherichia coli. Applied Environmental Microbiology, 83: e03133-16.

Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X* (2016): Biosynthetic mechanism of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in Thraustochytrium sp. 26185. Journal of Lipid Research, 57:1854-1864.

Zhao X, Meesapyodsuk D, Qu C, Qiu X* (2016): Genomic Analysis of Genes Involved in the Biosynthesis of Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Thraustochytrium sp. 26185. Lipids. 51:1065-75.

Jiang S, Robertson T, Mostajeran M, Robertson AJ, Qiu X* (2016): Differential gene expression of two extreme honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies showing varroa tolerance and susceptibility. Insect Mol Biol. 25:272-82.

Meesapyodsuk D, Chen Y, Ng SH, Chen J and Qiu X* (2015): Metabolic engineering of Pichia pastoris to produce ricinoleic acid, a hydroxy fatty acid of industrial importance. Journal of Lipid Research, 56: 2102-2109. 

Subedi K, Yu HM, Newell M, Weselake RJ, Meesapyodsuk D, Qiu X, Shah S, Field CJ (2015) Stearidonic acid-enriched flax oil reduces the growth of human breast cancer in vitro and in vivo. Breast Cancer Res Treat, 149:17-29.

Withana-Gamage TS, Hegedus DD, Qiu X, Wanasundara JP (2015) Solubility, heat-induced gelation and pepsin susceptibility of cruciferin protein as affected by subunit composition. Food Biophysics, 10:103–115

Chen Y, Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2014): Transgenic production of omega-3 very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in plants: accomplishment and challenge. Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology, 3:38–43. (Invited review)

Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2014): Structure determinants for the substrate specificity of acyl-CoA △9 desaturases from a marine copepod. ACS Chemical Biology, 9, 922−934.

Withana-Gamage TS, Hegedus DD, Qiu X, Wanasundara JP (2013): Structural and physicochemical property relationships of cruciferin homohexamers. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 61, 5848−5859.

Chen Y, Chi HY, Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2013): Phytophthora infestans cholinephosphotransferase with substrate specificity for very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 79:1573-1579.

Vrinten P, Mavraganis I, Qiu X, Senger T, (2013): Biosynthesis of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in the marine Ichthyosporean Sphaeroforma arctica. Lipids, 48:263-274.

Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2012): The front-end desaturase: structure, function, evolution and biotechnological use. Lipids, 47:227-237, (invited review).

Teerawanichpan P and Qiu X* (2012): Molecular and functional analysis of three fatty acyl-CoA reductases with distinct substrate specificities in copepod Calanus finmarchicus. Marine Biotechnology, 14:227-236.

Withana-Gamage TS, Hegedus DD, Qiu X and Wanasundara JPD (2011) In silico homology modeling to predict functional properties of cruciferin. Journal of Agriculture & Food Chemistry, 59:12925-38.

Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2011): A peroxygenase pathway involved in the biosynthesis of epoxy fatty acids in oat (Avena sativa). Plant Physiology, 157: 454-463.

Martinez M, Ichaso N, Setien F, Durany N, Qiu X, Roesler W (2010): The Δ4-desaturation pathway for DHA biosynthesis is operative in the human species: Differences between normal controls and children with the Zellweger syndrome. Lipids in Health and Disease, 9:98-108.

Tan L, Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2011): Molecular analysis of ∆6 desaturase and ∆6 elongase from Conidiobolus obscurus in the biosynthesis of eicosatetraenoic acid, a w3 fatty acid with nutraceutical potentials. Applied Microbiology & Biotechnology, 90:591–601.

Teerawanichpan P, Robertson J and Qiu X* (2010): A fatty acyl-CoA reductase highly expressed in the head of honey bee (Apis mellifera) involves biosynthesis of a wide range of aliphatic fatty alcohols. Insect Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 40: 641-649.

Vrinten P, Hoffman T, Bauer J, Qiu X (2010): Specific protein regions influence substrate specificity and product length in very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid condensing enzymes. Biochemistry, 49:3879-3886.

Teerawanichpan P and Qiu X* (2010): Fatty acyl-CoA reductase and wax synthase from Euglena gracilis in the biosynthesis of medium-chain wax esters. Lipids, 45:263–273.

Mavraganis I, Meesapyodsuk D, Vrinten P, Smith M, Qiu X* (2010): A type II diacylglycerol acyltransferase from Claviceps purpurea with substrate preference towards ricinoleic acid, a hydroxyl fatty acid of industrial importance. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 76: 1135–1142.

Cheng B, Wu G, Vrinten P, Falk K, Bauer J and Qiu X* (2010): Towards the production of high levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in transgenic plants: the effects of different host species, genes and promoters. Transgenic Research, 19:221-229.

Truksa M, Vrinten P and Qiu X* (2009): Metabolic engineering of plants for polyunsaturated fatty acid production. Molecular Breeding, 23:1-11 (invited review).

Meesapyodsuk D and Qiu X* (2008): An oleate hydroxylase from the fungus Claviceps purpurea: cloning, functional analysis and expression in Arabidopsis thaliana. Plant Physiology, 147: 1325–1333.

Meesapyodsuk D, Reed D, Covello P and Qiu X* (2007): Primary structure, regioselectivity and evolution of the membrane-bound fatty acid desaturases of Claviceps purpurea. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 282: 20191–20199.

Truksa M, Wu G, Vrinten P and Qiu X* (2006): Metabolic engineering of plants to produce very long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Transgenic Research, 15:131–137 (invited review).

Vrinten P, Hu Z, Munchinsky M, Rowland G and Qiu X* (2005): Two FAD3 genes control linolenic acid levels in flax seeds. Plant Physiology, 139: 79-87.

Wu G, Truksa M, Datla N, Vrinten P, Bauer J, Zank T, Cirpus P, Heinz E and Qiu X* (2005): Stepwise metabolic engineering of economically significant amounts of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in plant seeds. Nature Biotechnology, 23:1013-1017.

Truksa M, MacKenzie SL and Qiu X* (2003): Molecular analysis of flax 2S storage protein conlinin and seed-specific activity of its promoter. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, 41:141-147.

Qiu X* (2003): Biosynthesis of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6-4,7,10,13,16,19): two distinct pathways. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential fatty acids, 68:181-186 (invited review).

Hong HP, Datla N, Mackenzie SL and Qiu X* (2002): Identification and characterization of a D5 fatty acid desaturase from Pythium irregulare by heterologous expression in yeast and oilseed crops. Lipids, 37:863-868.

Reed DW, Savile CK, Qiu X, Buist PH and Covello PS (2002): Mechanism of 1,4-dehydrogenation catalyzed by a fatty acid (1,4)-desaturase of Calendula officinalis. European Journal of Biochemistry, 269:5024-5029.

Hong HP, Datla N, Reed DW, Covello PS, MacKenzie SL and Qiu X* (2002): High level production of gamma-linolenic acid in Brassica juncea using a D6 desaturase from Pythium irregulare. Plant Physiology, 129: 354-362.

Qiu X*, Hong HP, Datla N, MacKenzie SL, Taylor DC and Thomas TL (2002): Expression of borage D6 desaturase in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and oilseed crops. Canadian Journal of Botany, 80:42-49.

Wan L, Xia Q, Qiu X and Selvaraj G (2002): Early stages of seed development in Brassica napus: a seed coat-specific cysteine proteinase associated with programmed cell death of the inner integument. Plant Journal, 30:1-10.

Qiu X*, Hong HP and MacKenzie SL (2001): Identification of a Delta-4 fatty acid desaturase from Thraustochytrium sp. involved in biosynthesis of docosahexaenoic acid by heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Brassica juncea. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 276:31561-31566.

Qiu X*, Reed DR, Hong HP, MacKenzie SL and Covello PS (2001): Identification and analysis of a gene from Calendula officinalis encoding a fatty acid conjugase. Plant Physiology, 125, 847-855.

Qiu X*, Selinger B and Cheng K-J, (2000): Cloning and analysis of two cellulase cDNAs from rumen fungus Orpinomyces joyonii. Gene, 245:119-126.

Qiu X, Wu Y, Du S and Erickson L, (1997): A new arabinogalactan protein-like gene expressed in the pollen of alfalfa. Plant Science, 124: 41-47.