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Francisco Barona-Gomez (CV) - old

Principal Investigator

Francisco Barona-Gomez (CV) - old

Principal Investigator


Principal Investigator (3A)

Telephone (office)

+52 (462) 166-3017




Evolution of Metabolic Diversity


As a chemist graduated from ITESM, Campus Monterrey (1991 – 1996), with a strong biological bias, I got interested on the biosynthesis of natural products since early on in my career. After graduation, I worked for two years within the R&D department of the Mexican agrochemical company, Grupo Bioquimico Mexicano SA, as a natural products scientist, which made me realised the importance of placing into biological context the fascinating chemistry encountered in natural products from plants and microbes. This realisation took me to do doctoral studies (1999 – 2003, Conacyt scholarship) in molecular microbiology, specifically working on the structural and functional genomics of Streptomyces coelicolor amino acid metabolism, under the supervision of Prof. David A. Hodgson, at the Department Biological Sciences of the University of Warwick. The microbiological knowledge gained during my PhD was then complemented by postdoctoral studies at the Department of Chemistry of the same university, working on the biology and chemistry (metabolomics) of natural products produced by the same organism, under the supervision of Prof. Greg L. Challis. Late in 2005, I came back to Mexico, where I got a position as an associate professor at the Institute of Biotechnology, UNAM Campus Morelos, where I worked in the laboratory of directed evolution lead by Prof. Xavier Soberon, on the evolution of enzyme function, until 2007. After two years at UNAM, where I started shaping my own group, I moved to Langebio CINVESTAV, where I have been since early 2008 leading the Evolution of Metabolic Diversity Laboratory.

Research interests

My main research interest relates to the evolution of microbial metabolic pathways, mainly from actinobacteria, at the many levels: from the discrete chemical conversions, i.e. enzymes and metabolites, to the expansion and diversification of metabolic pathways and networks, including the biological and ecological roles of the many metabolites produced by these microorganisms. Successful reconstruction of metabolic pathways from actinobacterial genomic data (i.e. Streptomyces, Mycobacterium, etc) has allowed me to pose and test evolutionary hypotheses related to the molecular, structural and evolutionary mechanisms driving the evolution of enzymes and metabolic pathways. On the one hand, I have adopted the dual-substrate (ba)8-isomerase PriA (from Phosphoribosyl isomerase A), which was discovered as a solution to a tryptophan biosynthetic missing gene (i.e. trpF, encoding for phosphoribosyl anthranilate isomerase) from the actinobacterial genome, as a model system to explore hypotheses related to the role of structural dynamics (loops) and genome dynamics on the evolution of enzyme function. On the other hand, based on previous experiences reconstructing natural products biosynthetic pathways, I am interested on understanding the evolutionary constraints related to this level of metabolism, which might be useful for developing novel approaches for natural products genome mining and to for elucidating the biological roles of this class of metabolites. Recently, in collaboration with industry and plant biologists from academia, I have started a program aimed at understanding - from a comparative genomics and metabolomics perspective - the interaction between the actinobacterial pathogen Clavibacter michiganensis and tomato plants. The tools and techniques that I have used during my career, which are part of our laboratory’s toolbox, include bacterial genetics and genomics, i.e. genome sequencing and comparative phylogenomics; comparative enzymology and development of enzyme assays; bioinformatic and phylogenetic analyses; directed evolution and site-directed mutagenesis; synthesis and chemical analysis of metabolites through mass spectrometry (metabolomics); and 3D structural analysis of enzymes, including X-ray crystallography. In the near future, we hope we will be able to incorporate into our toolbox (i) ‘resurrection’ and structural/functional analysis of ancestral enzymes, and (ii) analysis of enzyme dynamics through mass spectrometry proton/deuterium exchange (HDX).

Education and training


Associate professor, Evolution of Enzymes, UNAM Campus Morelos, Mexico


Postdoctoral researcher, Natural Products, University of Warwick, UK


PhD, Molecular Microbiology, University of Warwick, UK


International Training Program (ITP-12), Industrial Biotechnology, UNESCO-GBF Braunschweig, Germany


BSc, Chemistry, ITESM Campus Monterrey, Mexico



Member of the Researcher’s National System (SNI-1), Mexico


Awarded best PhD project at the Warwick Biological Sciences Graduate Symposium of 2002.


Distinguished with honours by the governor of Nuevo Leon (Monterrey) Mexico, as one of the best three grades in Chemistry in the state.

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