Kai Chan

Kai Xun Chan completed his Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology with First Class Honours and a University Medal in Biology in 2010 at the Australian National University (ANU). In December 2015 he completed his PhD in Plant Sciences at ANU, elucidating the structural regulation of the chloroplast signaling protein SAL1. After postdoctoral stints at the ANU and at the VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology in Belgium as an FWO Research Fellow, Kai returned to ANU in 2022 as a Group Leader and ARC DECRA Fellow.

Throughout his short academic career so far, Kai has won numerous awards including the 2017 ACT Scientist of the Year, 2017 ACT Young Tall Poppy Award, and an ANU JG Crawford Medal, the ANU's premier award for graduate excellence. He is the recipient of several competitive fellowships including an ARC DECRA, FWO Research Fellowship and Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship from the European Commission. He is also funded by two industry grants from ANU-UC Connect Ventures.

Kai has published in various international peer-reviewed journals including PNAS, eLife, Annual Review of Plant Biology, and Trends in Plant Science (see full list below). He also serves as a reviewer for specialist plant research journals including The Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, The Plant Journal and Journal of Experimental Botany.

Research interests

I am interested in understanding the process of how different components of a plant cell communicate with one another to coordinate responses to environmental challenges. To achieve this, my research focuses on:

  • the regulation of signals involved in retrograde communication between chloroplasts and mitochondria with the nucleus during oxidative stresses such as drought and high light stress. Understanding these processes may uncover mechanisms of stress perception in plant energy organelles and and the role of protein redox regulation in organelle signaling.
  • the assimilation and partitioning of the key macronutrient, sulfur, during abiotic stress. Sulfur is required for the synthesis of various stress-responsive compounds and its consumption requires careful coordination within the plant.
  • utilising high throughput chemical biology to develop novel compounds for targeting and manipulating the biochemical/structural properties of signalling proteins for both fundamental and applied research.
  • Zhao, C, Wang, Y, Chan, K et al. 2019, 'Evolution of chloroplast retrograde signaling facilitates green plant adaptation to land', PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 116, no. 11, pp. 5015-5020.
  • Phua, S, Pornsiriwong, W, Chan, K et al. 2018, 'Development of strategies for genetic manipulation and fine-tuning of a chloroplast retrograde signal 3'-phosphoadenosine 5'-phosphate', Plant Direct, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-15.
  • Phua, S, Yan, D, Chan, K et al. 2018, 'The arabidopsis SAL1-PAP pathway: A case study for integrating chloroplast retrograde, light and hormonal signaling in modulating plant growth and development?', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 9, no. 1171, pp. 1-8.
  • Chan, K, Mabbitt, P, Phua, S et al. 2016, 'Sensing and signaling of oxidative stress in chloroplasts by inactivation of the SAL1 phosphoadenosine phosphatase', PNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 113, no. 31, pp. E4567-E4576.
  • Pornsiriwong, W, Estavillo, G, Chan, K ... Phua, S, et al 2017, 'A chloroplast retrograde signal, 3'-phosphoadenosine 5'-phosphate, acts as a secondary messenger in abscisic acid signaling in stomatal closure and germination', eLife, vol. 6, no. -, pp. 1-34pp.
  • Zhang , X, Ivanova, A, Vandepoele, K et al. 2017, 'The transcription factor MYB29 is a regulator of alternative oxidase1a', Plant Physiology, vol. 173, no. 3, pp. 1824-1843.
  • Chan, K, Phua, S, Crisp, P et al. 2016, 'Learning the Languages of the Chloroplast: Retrograde Signaling and Beyond', Annual Review of Plant Biology, vol. 67, pp. 25-53.
  • Bruggeman, Q, Mazubert, C, Prunier, F ... Phua, S, et al 2016, 'Chloroplast activity and 3' phosphadenosine 5'phosphate signaling regulate programmed cell death in Arabidopsis', Plant Physiology, vol. 170, no. 3, pp. 1745-1756.
  • Van Norman, J, Zhang, J, Cazzonelli, C et al. 2014, 'Periodic root branching in Arabidopsis requires synthesis of an uncharacterized carotenoid derivative', National Academy of Sciences. Proceedings, vol. 111, no. 13, pp. E1300-E1309.
  • Chan, K, Wirtz, M, Phua, S et al. 2013, 'Balancing metabolites in drought: the sulfur assimilation conundrum', Trends in Plant Science, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 18-29.
  • Estavillo, G, Chan, K, Phua, S et al. 2013, 'Reconsidering the nature and mode of action of metabolite retrograde signals from the chloroplast', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 3, no. Article 300, pp. 1-9.
  • Chan, K, Crisp, P, Estavillo, G et al. 2010, 'Chloroplast-to-nucleus communication; Current knowledge, experimental strategies and relationship to drought stress signaling', Plant Signaling & Behavior, vol. 5, no. 12, pp. 1575-1582.

Lecturing and Research Supervision

  • Co-convener and lecturer for BIOL3107 / BIOL6107 (Advances in Medical and Plant Biochemistry)
  • Supervisor for undergraduate, Honours, Masters and PhD projects - see Projects tab for current projects

Teaching awards