Peng Zhang, Professor

Institute of Plant Physiology & Ecology

Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences

Chinese Academy of Sciences

300 Fenglin Road, 200032 Shanghai, China



Research Areas

Cassava and sweetpotato are two important root crops in China. Because of their drought and poor soil tolerance as well as high yield potential, they can grow under marginal conditions and in areas where few other crops can sustain competitive yields. Therefore, cassava and sweetpotato are fundamental to subsistence farming, food security and bio-energy. Due to the biological nature of cassava and sweetpotato, conventional breeding efforts to address their production constraints have only met limited success. Our objectives are: 1) to increase our knowledge related to the molecular mechanisms of their high capacity of photosynthesis and starch accumulation, drought tolerance and adaption to infertile lands; and 2) to develop biotechnological tools to make them more productive, a better source of nutrients and profitable to grow. We expect that our research capacity in cassava and sweetpotato will be improved through intensive collaboration with domestic and international scientists.

Our research activities include:

  1.  Storage root development and regulation;
  2.  Starch metabolism and mechanism of source-sink regulation;
  3.  Biosynthesis, modification and regulation of secondary metabolites (e.g. anthocyanin);
  4.  Mechanism and regulation of postharvest physiological deterioration;
  5.  Response and regulation to abiotic stresses (cold, drought, etc.);
  6.  Elevated resistance to insect and virus diseases.

Lab web:


1998.05-2001.02, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH-Zürich), Ph.D. in Plant Biotechnology

1992.09-1995.07, South China Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, M.A. in Botany

1988.09-1992.07, Shandong Normal University, B.S. in Biology


2005.07-present, Professor of the Institute of Plant Physiology & Ecology, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences

2001.02-2006.12, Group Leader of Cassava Biotechnology Group at Plant Biotechnology Laboratory (Prof. Wilhelm Gruissem), Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH-Zürich


1.      Bi H, Fan W, Zhang P*  (2017) C4 protein of Sweet Potato Leaf Curl Virus regulates  brassinosteroid signaling pathway through interaction with AtBIN2 and  affects male fertility in Arabidopsis. Frontiers in Plant Science 8:1689.

2.      Yang  J, Moeinzadeh M-H, Kuhl H, Helmuth J, Xiao P, Haas S, Liu G, Zheng J,  Sun Z, Fan W, Deng G, Wang H, Hu F, Zhao S, Fernie AR, Boerno S,  Timmermann B, Zhang P*, Vingron M* (2017) Haplotype-resolved sweet potato genome traces back its hexaploidization history. Nature Plants 3: 696-703.

3.      Zhou W, He S, Naconsie M, Ma Q, Zeeman SC, Gruissem W, Zhang P* (2017) Alpha-glucan, water dikinase 1 affects starch metabolism and storage root growth in cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz). Scientific Reports 7: 9863

4.      Shi S, Zhang X, Mandel MA, Zhang P,  Zhang Y, Ferguson M, Amuge T, Rounsley S, Liu Z*, Xiong Z* (2017)  Variations of five eIF4E genes across cassava accessions exhibiting  tolerant and susceptible responses to cassava brown streak disease. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0181998.

5.      Ruan M-B*, Guo X, Wang B, Yang Y-L, Li W-Q, Yu X-L, Zhang P,  Peng M* (2017) Genome-wide characterization and expression analysis  enables identification of abiotic stress-responsive MYB transcription  factors in cassava (Manihot esculenta). Journal of Experimental Botany 68(13): 3657-3672

6.      Ge J, Hu Y, Wang H, Huang Y, Zhang P*, Liao Z*, Chen M* (2017) Profiling of anthocyanins in transgenic purple-fleshed sweet potatoes by HPLC-MS/MS. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (Online First)

7.      An D, Ma Q, Wang H, Yang J, Zhou W, Zhang P* (2017)  Cassava C-repeat binding factor 1 gene responds to low temperature and  enhances cold tolerance when overexpressed in Arabidopsis and cassava.  Plant Molecular Biology 94(1-2): 109-124.

8.      Lu F, Liang X, Lu H, Li Q, Chen Q*, Zhang P*,  Li K*, Liu G, Yan W, Song J, Duan C, Zhang L (2017) Overproduction of  superoxide dismutase and catalase confers cassava resistance to Tetranychus cinnabarinus. Scientific Reports 7: 40179.

9.      Fan WJ, Wang HX, Wu YL, Yang N, Yang J, Zhang P* (2017) H+-pyrophosphatase IbVP1 promotes efficient iron use in sweet potato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.]. Plant Biotechnology Journal 15: 698-712. (Cover Story Article)

10.   An D, Ma Q, Yan W, Zhou W, Liu G, Zhang P* (2016)  Divergent regulation of CBF regulon on cold tolerance and plant  phenotype in cassava overexpressing Arabidopsis CBF3 gene. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:1866.

11.   Wang H, Yang J, Zhang M, Fan W, Firon N, Pattanaik S, Yuan L, Zhang P* (2016) Altered phenylpropanoid metabolism in the maize Lc-expressed sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) affects storage root development. Scientific Reports 6: 18645.

12.   Ma Q, Zhang T, Zhang P*, Wang Z-Y*. (2016) Melatonin attenuates postharvest physiological deterioration of cassava storage roots. Journal of Pineal Research 60(4): 424-434.

13.   Liao WB, Wang G, Li YY, Wang B, Zhang P*,  Peng M* (2016) Reactive oxygen species regulate leaf pulvinus  abscission zone cell separation in response to water-deficit stress in  cassava. Scientific Reports 6: 21542.

14.   Li KT, Moulin M, Mangel N, Albersen M, Verhoeven-Duif NM, Ma Q, Zhang P,  Fitzpatrick TB*, Gruissem W*, Vanderschuren H* (2015) Increased  bioavailable vitamin B6 in field-grown transgenic cassava for dietary  sufficiency. Nature Biotechnology 33(10): 1029-1032.

15.   Ma Q, Zhou W, Zhang P (2015)  Transition from somatic embryo to friable embryogenic callus in  cassava: Dynamic changes in cellular structure, physiological status,  and gene expression profiles. Frontiers in Plant Science 6: 824.

16.   Zhou W, Yang J, Hong Y, Liu G, Zheng J, Gu Z, Zhang P* (2015) Impact of amylose content on starch physicochemical properties in transgenic sweet potato. Carbohydrate Polymers 122: 417–427.

17.   Fan W, Deng G, Wang H, Zhang H, Zhang P* (2014) Elevated compartmentalization of Na+ into vacuoles improves salt and cold stress tolerance in sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). Physiologia Plantarum 154: 560-571.

18.   Xu J, Yang J, Duan X, Jiang Y, Zhang P* (2014) Increased expression of native cytosolic Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase and ascorbate peroxidase improves tolerance to oxidative and chilling stresses in cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz). BMC Plant Biology 14: 208.

19.   Wang W*, Feng B, Xiao J, Xia Z, Zhou X, Li P, Zhang W, Wang Y, Møller BL, Zhang P, Luo MC, Xiao G, Liu J, Yang J, Chen S, Rabinowicz PD, et al. (2014) Cassava genome from a wild ancestor to cultivated varieties. Nature Communications 5: 5110.

20.   Bi H, Zhang P* (2014) Agroinfection of sweet potato by vacuum infiltration of an infectious sweepovirus. Virologica Sinica 29(3): 148-154.

21.   Liu J, Yang J, Bi H, Zhang P* (2014) Why mosaic? Gene expression profiling of African cassava mosaic virusinfected cassava reveals the effect of chlorophyll degradation on symptom development. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 56(2): 122-132.

22.   Xu J, Duan XG, Yang J, Beeching JR, Zhang P* (2013) Enhanced reactive oxygen species scavenging by overproduction of superoxide dismutase and catalase delays post-harvest physiological deterioration of cassava storage roots. Plant Physiology 161(3): 1517-1528.

23.   Wang H, Fan W, Li H, Yang J, Huang J, Zhang P* (2013) Functional characterization of dihydroflavonol-4-reductase in anthocyanin biosynthesis of purple sweet potato underlies the direct evidence of anthocyanins function against abiotic stresses. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78484.

24.   Duan X, Xu J, Ling E, Zhang P* (2013) Expression of Cry1Aa in cassava improves its insect resistance against Helicoverpa armigera. Plant Molecular Biology 83(1): 131-141.

25.   Xu J, Duan X, Yang J, Beeching JR, Zhang P* (2013) Coupled expression of Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase and catalase in cassava improves tolerance against cold and drought stresses. Plant Signaling & Behavior 8: e24525.

26.   Rolland-Sabaté A*, Sanchez T, Buléon A, Colonna P, Ceballos H, Zhao SS, Zhang P, Dufour D (2013) Molecular and supra-molecular structure of waxy starches developed from cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz). Carbohydrate Polymers 92(2): 1451–1462.

27.   Fan WJ, Zhang M, Zhang HX, Zhang P* (2012) Improved tolerance to various abiotic stresses in transgenic sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) expressing spinach betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase. PLoS ONE 7(5): e37344.

28.   Bi H, Zhang P* (2012) Molecular characterization of two sweepoviruses identified from China and infectivity evaluation of cloned SPLCV-JS in Nicotiana benthamiana. Archives of Virology 157: 441-454.

29.   An D, Yang J, Zhang P* (2012) Transcriptome profiling of low temperature-treated cassava apical shoots showed dynamic responses of tropical plant to cold stress. BMC Genomics 13:64.

30.   Zhao SS, Dufour S, Sánchez T, Ceballos H, Zhang P* (2011) Development of waxy cassava with different biological and physico-chemical characteristics of starches for industrial applications. Biotechnology and Bioengineering 108(8):1925-35.

31.   Liu J, Zheng Q, Ma Q, Gadidasu KK, Zhang P* (2011) Cassava genetic transformation and its application in breeding. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 53(7): 552-569.

32.   Sayre R, Beeching J, Cahoon E, Egesi C, Fauquet C, Fellman J, Fregene M, Gruissem W, Mallowa S, Manary M, Maziya-Dixon B, Mbanaso A, Schachtman DP, Siritunga D, Taylor N, Vanderschuren H, Zhang P (2011) The BioCassava Plus Program: Biofortification of cassava for sub-Saharan Africa. Annual Review of Plant Biology 62: 251-272.

33.   Yang J, An D, Zhang P* (2011) Expression profiling of cassava storage roots reveals an active process of glycolysis/gluconeogenesis. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 53(3): 193-211.

34.   Yang J, Bi HP, Fan WJ, Zhang M, Wang HX, Zhang P* (2011) Efficient embryogenic suspension culturing and rapid transformation of a range of elite genotypes of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam.). Plant Science 181: 701-711.

35.   Zhang P*, Wang WQ, Zhang GL, Kaminek M, Dobrev P, Xu J, Gruissem W (2010) Senescence-inducible expression of isopentenyl transferase extends leaf life, increases drought stress resistance and alters cytokinin metabolism in cassava.  Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 52(7): 653-669.