University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
College of Biological Sciences

Lawrence P. Wackett

Professor, BMBB

Office: 156a Gortner

Laboratory: 144/156 Gortner
Telephone: 612-624-4278

Research Homepage

Research Description

The Wackett laboratory investigates enzyme transformations for biotechnological applications. The applications focus on biodegradation for environmental purposes and biocatalysis for producing specialty chemicals or detection kits.  The biodegradation research is now directed toward the treatment of waters generated during the process of hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas from shale resources. We also study the biodegradation of s-triazine compounds such as the herbicide atrazine and pool water chemical cyanuric acid. The biocatalysis research is heavily focused on better understanding the enzymatic basis of bacterial hydrocarbon biosynthesis. Renewable hydrocarbons are currently of interest as fuels or feedstocks. The Wackett lab also studies enzymes that degrade food adulterants to use them for developing detection systems. For example, we had previously worked with Bioo Scientific to help develop the MaxSignal Melamine kit for detection melamine in milk and other food products. 

Research Overview

The Wackett laboratory studies microbial enzymes and pathways for biocatalysis and biodegradation and helped build the Biocatalysis/Bioegradation Database.


Atrazine – Biocatalyst encapsulation and water treatment
Cyanuric acid – Removal from swimming pool water
Hydrocarbon biosynthesis – Enzyme structure and mechanisms
Enzyme-based sensors for detecting food toxicants
New Projects
Biodegradation relevant to hydrauiic fracturing (fracking)
Biocatalysis relevant to upgrading the value of natural gas

Recent Publications

Gao, J., L.B.M. Ellis, and L.P. Wackett (2011) The University of Minnesota Pathway Prediction System: Multi-level prediction and visualization. Nucl. Acids Res. W406-411.

Frias, J.A., J.E. Richman, J.S. Erickson and L.P. Wackett (2011) Purification and characterization of OleA from Xanthomonas campestris and demonstration of a non-decarboxylative Claisen condensation reaction. J. Biol. Chem. 286:10930-10938.

Pinzon, N., K. Aukema, J.A. Gralnick, and L.P. Wackett (2011) Nile Red screening for the bacterial production of hydrocarbons and ketones. mBio 2(4): pii: e00109-11. doi:10.1128/mBio.00109-111.

Frias, J.A., J.E. Richman, J.S. Erickson and L.P. Wackett (2011) Letter: Definitive alkene identification needed for in vitro studies with Ole (olefin biosynthesis) proteins. J. Biol. Chem. 286 (26): le 12-13.

Cameron, S.M., K. Durchschein, J.E. Richman, M.J. Sadowsky and L.P. Wackett (2011) A new family of biuret hydrolases involved in s-triazine ring metabolism. ACS Catalysis 1(9):1075-1082.

Reátegui,E, E. Reynolds,L. Kasinkas, A. Aggarwal, M.J. Sadowsky,A. Aksan, L.P. Wackett (2012) Silica gel encapsulated AtzA biocatalyst for atrazine biodegradation. Appl. Micro. Biotech. Jan 7. E-pub ahead of print.

Wackett, L.P. and L.B.M. Ellis (2012) MiniReview: Microbial transformation of organic compounds. Micro. Inf. Exp. 2:1 doi:10.1186/2042-5783-2-1

Dodge, A.G., L.P. Wackett, and M.J. Sadowsky (2012) Melamine metabolism by Rhodococcus sp. Mel. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78:1397-1403.

Goblirsch, B.R., J.A. Frias, L.P. Wackett, and C.M. Wilmot (2012) Crystal structures of Xanthomonas campestris OleA reveal features that promote head-to-head condensation of two long chain fatty acids. Biochemistry 51: 4138-4146.

Seffernick, J.L., J.S. Erickson, S. Cho, A.G. Dodge, J. Richman, S.M. Cameron, M.J. Sadowsky, and L.P. Wackett (2012) Defining the cyanuric acid hydrolase (AtzD)/barbiturase protein family. J. Bacteriol. (in press).