John E Cronan

John E Cronan

Office: (217) 333-7919
Lab: (217) 244-3466
Fax: (217) 244-6697

Mail to: Microbiology
601 S Goodwin Ave
Urbana, IL 61801

Professor of Microbiology
Professor of Biochemistry
Microbiology Alumni Professor

Research Topics

Biofuels, Enzymology, Genetics, Membrane Biology, Microbial Physiology, Regulation of Gene Expression


B.A. (Biology), California State University, 1965
Ph.D. (Molecular Biology), University of California, Irvine, 1968
Postdoctoral (Biochemistry), Washington University School of Medicine, 1968-1970

Teaching Interests

Genetic approaches to regulation of lipid metabolism; synthesis and attachment of biotin and lipoic acid

My laboratory works in two main areas-regulation of lipid metabolism and protein-lipid interaction. In both areas, the organism studied is Escherichia coli due to its sophisticated genetics and simple lipid composition. We have studied mechanisms that regulate the composition of the membrane phospholipids of E. coli and are currently concerned how this organism regulates lipid synthesis such that it is neither "fat nor lean." Although, E. coli is the paradigm for bacterial lipid synthesis there are bacteria that are missing genes that are in essential for E. coli growth.  We are in process of figuring out which proteins these bacteria use in place of those used by E. coli.  This has practical consequences because bacterial fatty acid synthesis is the target of several newly developed antibiotics.  We have found that two key coenzymes, how lipoic acid and biotin, found in all three domains of life require the fatty acid synthetic pathway for their synthesis.   We have determined how E. coli makes these coenzymes and are now expanding into the pathways found in other bacteria.

Figure 1.


Member of the National Academy of Sciences
University Scholar
Microbiology Alumni Professor

Representative Publications

Zhao, S., R. Kumar, A. Sakai, M. Vetting, B. M. Wood, S. Brown, P. C.Babbitt, S. C., Almo, J. V. Sweedler, J. A. Gerlt, J. E. Cronan and M. P. Jacobson (2013) Discovery of new enzymes and metabolic pathways using structure and genome context. Nature, in press.

Bi, H., H. Wang and J. E. Cronan (2013) FabQ, a Novel Dual-Function Dehydratase/Isomerase, Circumvents the Last Step of the Classical Fatty Acid Synthesis Cycle. Chem. Biol. in press.

Agarwal, V., S. Lin, S. K. Nair and J. E. Cronan (2012) Structure of the Enzyme-ACP Substrate Gatekeeper Complex Required for Biotin Synthesis. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2012 109:17406-17411. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:23045647, PMCID:PMC3491474.

Lin, S. and J. E. Cronan (2012) The BioC O-Methyltransferase Catalyzes Methyl Esterification of Malonyl-Acyl Carrier Protein, an Essential Step in Biotin Synthesis. J. Biol. Chem. 287:37010-37020 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22965231, PMCID:PMC3481302

Feng, Y. and J. E. Cronan (2012) Crosstalk of Escherichia coli FadR with Global Regulators in Expression of Fatty Acid Transport Genes. PLOS One 7:e46275. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046275. PMID:23029459 PMCID:PMC3460868.

Cronan, J. E. (2012) Improved Plasmid-Based System for Fully Regulated Off-To-On Gene Expression in Escherichia coli: Application to Production of Toxic Proteins. Plasmid 69:81-89. PMID: 23022297, PMCID:PMC3540202.

Shapiro, M. M., V. Chakravartty and J. E. Cronan (2012) Remarkable Diversity in the Enzymes Catalyzing the Last Step in Synthesis of the Pimelate Moiety of Biotin. PLOS One 7: e49440. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049440. PMID:23152908, PMCID:PMC3494674

Feng, Y. and J. E. Cronan (2013) Profligate Biotin Synthesis in α-Proteobacteria – A Developing or Decaying Regulatory System? Mol. Microbiol. 88):77-92. PMID:23387333.

Flores, H, S. Lin, G. Contreras-Ferrat, J. E. Cronan and E. Morett. (2012) Evolution of a New Function in an Esterase: Simple Amino Acid Substitutions Enable the Activity Present in the Larger Paralogue, BioH. Protein Eng. Des. Sel. 25: 387-395. PMID 22691705.

Bi, H. Q. H. Christensen, Y. Feng, Haihong Wang and J. E. Cronan (2012) The Burkholderia cenocepacia BDSF Quorum Sensing Fatty Acid is Synthesized by a Bifunctional CrotonaseHomologue Having Both Dehydratase and Thioesterase Activities. Mol. Microbiol. 83:840-855. PMID:22221091, PMCID: PMC3276249

Chakravartty, V. and J. E. Cronan (2012) Altered Regulation of Escherichia coli Biotin Biosynthesis in BirA Superrepressor Mutant Strains. J. Bacteriol. 194:1113-1126. PMID:22210766, PMCID: PMC3256616.

Complete Publications List