Felipe Oñate Carvajal

PhD Candidate

LinkedIn: Felipe Oñate Carvajal


Engineering plants to reroute carbon influx in the shikimate pathway to branching pathways

Research Interest

Lignin is one of the main components of woody biomass, accounting for 18-35%. However, the chemical recalcitrance of the polymer is a major challenge for industrial biomass processing. It is a high-cost and non-ecologically friendly process. Research has focused on reducing lignin content or alter its composition and structure.

Various strategies are employed to reduce lignin content. However, classical lignin-modification methods lack tissue specificity and have an impact on other metabolic routes connected to the phenylpropanoid pathway, which usually alters plant development or causes other undesirable effects. In this regard, “Gain-of-function” strategies have several advantages for the manipulation of metabolic pathways, including better spatiotemporal control of monolignol production in lignifying cells, thus avoiding undesired effects on non-target cells. Through genetic engineering, is it possible to reinforce certain branching points in the shikimate pathway for the production of hydrolysable tannins, or to add new genes to allow the synthesis of novel compounds as mycosporine-like aminoacids.

My research aims to explore alternative approaches to reduce lignin content in wood. In particular, I am focusing on strategies to reduce carbon influx from the phenylalanine pathway by utilizing branching pathways of the shikimate pathway produced in other plants and microorganisms.


BSc – Plant Biotechnology Engineering (Honors), University of Concepción, Chile (2014)

MSc – Forestry, University of Concepción, Chile (2017)

Selected Publications and Presentations

Oñate, FA, Hasbún, R, Mora, F, Figueroa, CR (2018). Linkage disequilibrium and population structure in Fragaria chiloensis revealed by SSR markers transferred from commercial strawberry. Acta Scientarum Agronomy 40: e34966.

Oñate, FA, Concha, C, Mora, F, Figueroa, CR (2014) Transferability of SSR markers from Fragaria x ananassa to Fragaria chiloensis. IX Plant Biology Meeting, La Serena, Chile, December 2014. Poster Presentation.

Concha, CM, Figueroa, NE, Poblete, LA, Oñate, FA, Schwab, W, Figueroa, CR (2015) Methyl jasmonate treatment induces changes in fruit ripening by modifying the expression of several ripening genes in Fragaria chiloensis fruit. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 70: 433-444.

Oñate, FA, Figueroa, NE, Poblete, LA, Schwab, W, Figueroa, CR (2012) Effect of methyl jasmonate (MeJA) on lignin biosynthesis in Fragaria chiloensis fruit. VII Plant Biology Meeting, Pucón, Chile, December 2012. Poster Presentation.

Awards, Grants, Scholarships

  • UBC Faculty of Forestry Strategic Recruitment Fellowship (2018)
  • CONICYT National Master’s Degree Scholarship (2015)
  • University of Concepción Award (2014)
  • Bicentenario Scholarship (2009)
  • Enrique Molina Garmendia Scholarship (2009)