Michael P. Timko

Lewis & Clark Professor of Biology, Professor of Public Health Science, Director of Human Biology Distinguished Major Program
280 Gilmer Hall
(434) 982-5817
Lab: (434) 982-5779


  • Rutgers University, College of Agriculture,  B.S., with High Honors, 1975
  • Rutgers University,  Ph.D., 1980
  • Brandeis University, Postdoctoral Associate, 1980-1982
  • Rockefeller University, Postdoctoral Associate, 1982-1986

Research Interests

Our research is conducted at the cellular and organismal level using a wide range of  biochemical, molecular, and genomic approaches in the laboratory and  in silico (computational/ bioinformatic). Our interest can be divided into three main themes. The first focuses on understanding the molecular components and signaling pathways that govern the interaction of the parasitic angiosperms Striga and Alectra with their host species.  Through comparative functional genomics we are defining the host defense components and parasite virulence effectors underlying compatible and incompatible host-parasite association. These studies also include an examination of the evolution of parasitism in the Orobanchaceae as a way of determining what makes parasitism in angiosperms an attractive life-history option. A second area of research focuses on the phytohormonal and developmental regulation of secondary metabolism in plants, with a particular emphasis on nicotine and related alkaloids in tobacco. By targeted manipulation we are attempting to define a cause and effect relationship between the presence of specific plant alkaloid constituents and their derivatives in tobacco smoke, tobacco smoke condensates, or smokeless tobacco extracts and their effects on human cellular function leading to disease using differentiated bronchial and oral cell cultures as models. The final area of work in the lab centers on the development and use of herbal and probiotic-based therapeutics and nutraceuticals for the treatment of human disease.

For more information about research interests, visit my lab webpage.

Representative Publications

Su C, Liu H, Wafula E, Honaas L, de Pamphilis, CW and Timko MP (2019) SHR4z, a novel decoy effector from the haustorium of the parasitic weed Striga gesnerioides, suppresses host plant immunity. New Phytol. 226: 891-908.  https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16351

Mao L, Kawaide H, Higuchi T, Chen M, Miyamoto K, Hirata Y, Kimura H, Miyazaki S, Teruya M, Fujiwara K, Tomita K, Yamane H, Hayashi K-i, Nojiri H, Jia L, Qiu J, Ye C, Timko MP, Fan L, and Okada K (2020) Genomic evidence for convergent evolution of gene clusters for momilactone biosynthesis in land plants. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. (USA) 117: 12472-12480. https://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1914373117

Albert M, Axtell MJ, and Timko MP (2021) Mechanisms of resistance and virulence in parasitic plant-host interactions. Plant Physiology 185: 1282-1291. https://doi.org/10.1093/plphys/kiaa064 Focus Issue on Parasitic Plants.

Zhang Y, Bian S, Liu X, Fang N, Wang C, Liu Y, Du Y, Timko MP, Zhang Z, and Zhang H (2021) Synthesis of cembratriene-ol and cembratriene-diol in yeast via the MVA pathway. Microb Cell Fact 20: 29 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12934-021-01523-4

Chen X, Liu L, Chu Q, Sun S, Wu Y, Fang W, Timko MP, and Fan L (2021) Large-scale identification of extracellular plant miRNAs in mammals implicates their dietary intake. PLoS ONE 16(9): e0257878. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0257878

Liu H and Timko MP (2022) Improving protein quantity and quality - the next level of plant molecular farming. Internat. J. Mol. Sci. 23: 1326. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031326

Wu D, Shen E, Jiang B, Feng Y, Tang W, Lao S, Jia L, Lin H-Y, Xie L, Weng X, Dong C, Qian Q, Lin F, Xu H, Lu H, Cutti L, Chen H, Deng S, Guo L, Chuah T-S, Song B-K, Scarabel L, Qiu J, Zhu Q-H, Yu Q, Timko MP, Yamaguchi H, Merotto Jr A, Qiu Y, Olsen KM, Fan L, and Ye C-Y (2022) Genomic insights into the evolution of Echinochloa species as a weed and an orphan crop. Nature Communications 13, 689. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28359-9.

da Silva Matos MK, Benko-Iseppon AM, Bezerra-Neto JP, Feirreira-Neto JRC, Wang Y, Liu H, Pandolfi V, Amorim LLB, Willadino L, Amorim TCdV, Kido EA, Vianello P, Timko MP, and Brasileiro-Vidal AC (2022) The WRKY transcription factor family in cowpea: Genomic characterization and transcriptomic profiling under root dehydration. Gene 823, 146377. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gene.2022.146377.

Wu D, Jiang B, Ye C-Y, Timko MP, and Fan L (2022) Horizontal transfer and evolution of the biosynthetic gene cluster for benzoxazinoid. Plant Communications 3: 100320 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xplc.2022.100320

Heineman JT, Forster GL, Cottler PS, Timko MP and De George Jr, BR (2022) A randomized controlled trial of topical cannabidiol for the treatment of thumb basal joint arthritis. J Hand Surg Am 47:611-620. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhsa.2022.03.002

Li J, Yang X, Chu Q, Xie L, Ding Y, Xu X, Timko MP and Fan L (2022) Multi-omics molecular biomarkers and database of osteoarthritis. Database: The Journal of Biological Databases and Curation Database, Volume 2022, baac052, https://doi.org/10.1093/database/baac052.

Ohlson EW, and Timko MP (2022) Mapping and validation of Alectra vogelii  resistance in the cowpea landrace B301. Agronomy 12, 2654. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12112654