Q&A with Analytical Division Award Winner: Ziliang Song
1) What was your reaction when you learned you won Analytical Division Award?
I was surprised by the news that I won the award, because this is the second time, I have been recognized with an AOCS award. I feel grateful for the committee's approval for my work.
2) What challenges have you overcome during your course of study?
We know little about orbitides and their potential functions in the plant, and thus I have to refer to the methods applied in other similar studies from the literature and customize them for my study. However, there are still many case-to-case differences that make the methods not work as well as one would hope. I am trying to build a framework for studying the diversity and evolution of orbitides at the genome level.
3) Can you tell us about your current research?
Orbitides are a class of cyclic peptides, first isolated in flaxseed in 1959. The discovery of cyclic peptides has been limited by bottom-up chemical approaches. To date, only nine orbitides have been identified and their sequence variation strongly implicates a myriad of more diverse orbitides to be explored. As orbitides are encoded by DNA sequences, I am inspired by the recently sequenced flax genome. Analyzing the precursor proteins sequences identified a distinct conserved pattern. Using this pattern, I searched the flax genome for sequences matching such patterns as candidates. The sequence information of the candidates was used to guide the identification of orbitides by mass spectrometry. These bioinformatics strategies can facilitate the identification, and reciprocally, validated orbitides will improve the sequence model of orbitides and provide useful insights of the evolution of these natural products and their biological functions in plants and other species.