Genetics, Development and Cell Biology > Faculty & Research > Faculty > Eve Syrkin Wurtele

Eve Syrkin Wurtele


Dr. Wurtele, Professor, received her B.S. in Biology from the University of California-Santa Cruz, and her Ph.D. in Biology from the UCLA. After serving as a postdoctoral fellow at UC-Davis and Senior Research Scientist at NPI, Inc., Dr. Wurtele joined the faculty at Iowa State University in 1988.  In 1999, she organized the first Plant Science Institute symposia series at ISU. She was awarded the Pioneer Dupont Award for Iowa Woman of Research Innovation and Leadership in 2012.  She directs the Plant/Eukaryotic and Microbial Systems Resource (PMR) .

Research Description

Dr. Wurtele’s research, juxtaposed at the interface between biology and computational sciences, centers on the interplay between the metabolic and regulatory signals: the metabolic network of plants. The Wurtele group is using an integrated experimental/biocomputational approach to understand the factors that regulate plant development and composition. This research is revealing a complex network that incorporates genes of previously unknown function that mediates the accumulation of proteins, starches and oils in plant leaves and seeds. Further, it has enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms of synthesis of unusual medicinal compounds. A practical consequence is that it provides new approaches to engineer plants, a biorenewable energy source, and microorganisms to accumulate large quantities of industrially-useful chemicals, and improve our food supply.

Dr. Wurtele and colleagues have developed the award-winning videogame, Meta!Blast. Meta!Blast takes the player into an metabolic adventure within a 3D photosynthetic cell.

Recent Meta!Blast awards include:

  • Meta!Blast 3D interactive application for cell and metabolic biology. Level 1: the cell.  Honorable mention 2011 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. Featured in: Science 335:533.
  • Featured at the 2012 American Association for Advancement of Science Annual Meeting
  • International Science and Engineering Challenge Finalist, Illustration (The Cytosol). Science Magazine and National Science Foundation.
  • Meta!Blast Won the People’s Choice Award
    in SciVis 2013
    Science Magazine and National Science Foundation
    Featured in Science, 2014 Feb

Contact Information

538 Science II
Ames, IA 50011
515-294-8989 voice
515-294-1337 fax

Web Sites
3D videogame to teach cell and metabolic biology. (Research sponsored by SEPA- National Institutes of Health; National Science Foundation; and Iowa State University)
bioinformatics tools for analysis and visualization of biological networks (Research sponsored by National Science Foundation)


B.S., University of California, Santa Cruz, 1971
Ph.D., UCLA, 1980


Pub Med Link to all publications

  • Li L, Zheng W, Zhu Y, Ye H, Tang B, Arendsee ZW, Jones D, Li R, Ortiz D, Zhao X, Du C, Nettleton D, Scott MP, Salas-Fernandez MG, Yin Y, Wurtele ES. 2015. QQS orphan gene regulates carbon and nitrogen partitioning across species via NF-YC interactions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Nov 9. pii: 201514670. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 26554020
  • Li L, Wurtele ES. The QQS orphan gene of Arabidopsis modulates carbon and nitrogen allocation in soybean. Plant Biotechnol J. 2014 Aug 22. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12238. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25146936.
  • Arendsee ZW, Li L, Wurtele ES. Coming of age: orphan genes in plants. Trends Plant Sci. 2014 Aug 21. pii: S1360-1385(14)00193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2014.07.003. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PubMed PMID: 25151064.
  • Fukushima A, Kusano M, Mejia RF, Iwasa M, Kobayashi M, Hayashi N, Watanabe-Takahashi A, Narisawa T, Tohge T, Hur M, Wurtele ES, Nikolau BJ, Saito K. Metabolomic Characterization of Knockout Mutants in Arabidopsis: Development of a Metabolite Profiling Database for Knockout Mutants in Arabidopsis. Plant Physiol. 2014 May 14;165(3):948-961. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 24828308; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4081348.Free full text
  • Zhang L, Berleant D, Ding J, Wurtele ES. Automatic extraction of biomolecular interactions: an empirical approach. BMC Bioinformatics. 2013 Jul 24;14:234. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-14-234. PubMed PMID: 23883165; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3729816. Free full text
  • Almeida-de-Macedo MM, Ransom N, Feng Y, Hurst J, Wurtele ES.Comprehensive analysis of correlation coefficients estimated from pooling heterogeneous microarray data. BMC Bioinformatics. 2013 Jul 4;14:214. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-14-214. PubMed PMID: 23822712; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3765419. Free full text
  • Crispin MC, Hur M, Park T, Kim YH, Wurtele ES. Identification and biosynthesis of acylphloroglucinols in Hypericum gentianoides. Physiol Plant. 2013 Jul;148(3):354-70. doi: 10.1111/ppl.12063. Epub 2013 May 24. PubMed PMID: 23600727; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3687794. Free full text
  • Hur M, Campbell AA, Almeida-de-Macedo M, Li L, Ransom N, Jose A, Crispin M, Nikolau BJ, Wurtele ES. A global approach to analysis and interpretation of metabolic data for plant natural product discovery. Nat Prod Rep. 2013 Apr;30(4):565-83. doi: 10.1039/c3np20111b. Review. PubMed PMID: 23447050; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3629923. Free full text
  • Yeo YS, Nybo SE, Chittiboyina AG, Weerasooriya AD, Wang YH, Góngora-Castillo E, Vaillancourt B, Buell CR, DellaPenna D, Celiz MD, Jones AD, Wurtele ES, Ransom N, Dudareva N, Shaaban KA, Tibrewal N, Chandra S, Smillie T, Khan IA, Coates RM, Watt DS, Chappell J. Functional identification of valerena-1,10-diene synthase, a terpene synthase catalyzing a unique chemical cascade in the biosynthesis of biologically active sesquiterpenes in Valeriana officinalis. J Biol Chem. 2013 Feb 1;288(5):3163-73. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.415836. Epub 2012 Dec 14. PubMed PMID: 23243312; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3561538. Free full text
  • Wurtele ES, Bassham D, Hanes G, Rautela G, Schneller W, Shah A, Navratil A, Klippel P. Meta!Blast: an interactive environment for learning and informal education. Proceedings ICON-CIMUSET. 2013
  • Crispin MC, Wurtele ES. 2012.Use of Metabolomics and Transcriptomics to Gain Insights into the Regulation and Biosynthesis of Medicinal Compounds: Hypericum as a Model. Chapter 18 In: Biotechnology for Medicinal Plants: Propagation and improvement. S Chandra, H Lata, AVarma, ed., Springer. In Press.
  • Ngaki MN, Louie GV, RN, Manning G, Pojer F, Bowman ME, Li L, Elise Larsen E, Wurtele ES, Noel JP. 2012. Evolution of the chalcone isomerase fold from fatty acid-binding to stereospecific enzyme. Nature. 485:530-533. doi:10.1038/nature11009
  • Feng YP, Hurst J. Almeida-De-Macedo M. Chen X. Li L. Ransom N, Wurtele ES. 2012. A massive human co-expression-network and its medical applications. Special Issue: Molecular Networks and Disease. Systems Biology, Chemistry & Biodiversity. May;9(5):868-87. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201100355
  • Schneller W, Campbell PJ, Bassham D, Wurtele ES 2012. Meta!Blast computer game: a pipeline from science to 3D art to education. The Engineering Reality of Virtual Reality, Eds: McDowall IE, Dolinsky M. International Society for Optics and Photonics. SPIE 828905.
  • Quanbeck SMM, Brachova L, Campbell AA, Guan X, Perera A, Seung KA, Rhee Y, Bais P, Dickerson J, Dixon P, Wohlgemuth G, Fiehn O, Barkan L,  Lange BM, Lee I, Cortes D, Shuman J, Shulaev V, Huhman D, Lei Z, Sumner LW, Roth MR,  Welti R, Ilarslan H, Wurtele ES,  Nikolau .BJ. 2012. Metabolomics as a hypothesis-generating functional genomics tool for the annotation of Arabidopsis thaliana genes of “unknown function”  Frontiers of. Plant Science. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2012.00015
  • Ding G, Che P, Ilarslan H, Wurtele ES, Nikolau BJ. 2012. Genetic dissection of methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase indicates a complex role for mitochondrial leucine catabolism during seed development and germination. Plant Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04893.x
  • Peng J, Ilarslan H, Wurtele ES, Bassham DC. 2011. AtRabD2b and AtRabD2c have overlapping functions in pollen development and pollen tube growth. BMC Plant Biology. 11:25
  • Stenerson M, Schneller W, Wurtele ES. 2012.  Enabling Educators to Customize the Game Environment. Procedings of Games, Learning and Society Conference, 2011.
  • Li X, Ilarslan H, Brachova L, Qian HR, Li L, Che P, Wurtele ES, Nikolau BJ. 2011  Reverse genetic analysis of the two biotin-containing subunit genes of the heteromeric acetyl-CoA carboxylase in Arabidopsis thaliana indicates a unidirectional functional redundancy. Plant Physiol.    PubMed PMID: 21030508.
  • Sucaet Y, Wurtele ES. 2010. MetNetAPI: A flexible method to access and manipulate biological network data from MetNet. BMC Res Notes. 3:312.    PubMed PMID: 21083943; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2998519.
  • Wu L, Rowe EW, Jeftinija K, Jeftinija S, Rizshsky L, Nikolau BJ, McKay J, Kohut M, Wurtele ES. 2010. Echinacea-induced cytosolic Ca2+ elevation in HEK293. BMC Complement Altern Med.10:72.    PubMed PMID: 21092239; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3002894.
  • Jia M,Li L,Boggess E, Wurtele ES, Dickerson JA. 2010. “Visualizing Multivariate Hierarchic Data Using Enhanced Radial Space-Filling Layout,” in Advances in Visual Computing. 6453: Springer Berlin / Heidelberg, pp. 350-360. Jia M, Chio SY,  Rieners D, Wurtele ES, Dickerson J. 2010. MetNetGE:Interactive views of biological networks and ontologies.  BMC Bioinformatics  11:469-476 Bais P, Moon SM, He K, Leitao R, Dreher K, Walk T, Sucaet Y, Barkan L, Wohlgemuth G, Roth MR, Wurtele ES, Dixon P, Fiehn O, Lange BM, Shulaev V, Sumner LW, Welti R, Nikolau BJ, Rhee SY, Dickerson JA. 2010. a web portal for plant metabolomics experiments. Plant Physiol. 152:1807-1816. Epub 2010 Feb 10. Wurtele ES, Bassham DC, Dickerson J, Kabala DJ, Schneller W, Stenerson M, Vasanth A. 2010. Meta!Blast: A serious game to explore the complexities of cell and metabolic biology. Proceedings of the ASME 2010 World Conference on Innovative Virtual Reality. WINVR2010
  • Lalone CA, Huang N, Rizshsky L, Yum MY, Singh N, Hauck C, Nikolau BJ, Wurtele ES, Kohut ML, Murphy PA, Birt DF.  2010.Enrichment of Echinacea angustifolia with Bauer alkylamide 11 and Bauer ketone 23 increased anti-inflammatory potential through interference with cox-2 enzyme activity. J Agric Food Chem. 58:8573-84. PMID: 20681645
  • Oliver, D.J. / Nikolau, B.J. / Wurtele, E.S. 2009. Life at the metabolic nexus. Plant Science, 176:597-601.
  • Jia M, Swaminathan S, Wurtele E, Dickerson J, 2009. MetNetGE: Visualizing Biological Networks in Hierarchical Views and 3D Tiered Layouts. IEEE Computer Society Proceedings.
  • El Kaissi M, Jia M, Dickerson J, Wurtele ES, Reiners D. 2009. Reaction centric layout for metabolic networks. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer-Verlag.
  • El Kaissi M, Jia M, Dickerson J, Wurtele ES, Reiners D. 2009.Visualization of gene regulatory networks. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer-Verlag. Perera A, Choi SY, Wurtele ES, Nikolau BJ. 2009. Quantitative analysis of acyl-coenzyme As in plant tissues by an LC-MS-MS electrospray ionization method. Chromatography B. Available online 1/09 .
  • Zhai Z, Haney DM, Wu L, Solco AK, Murphy PA, Wurtele ES, Kohut ML, Cunnick JE. 2009. Alcohol extract of Echinacea pallida reverses stress-delayed wound healing in mice. Phytomedicine. Mar 19. [Epub ahead of print] .
  • Senchina DS, McCann DA, Flinn GN, Wu L, Zhai Z, Cunnick JE, Wurtele ES, Kohut ML. 2009. Echinacea tennesseensis ethanol tinctures harbor cytokine- and proliferation-enhancing capacities. Cytokine. Mar 13. [Epub ahead of print] .
  • Zhai Z, Solco A, Wu L, Wurtele ES, Kohut ML, Murphy PA, Cunnick JE. 2009. Echinacea increases arginase activity and has anti-inflammatory properties in RAW 264.7 macrophage cells indicative of alternative macrophage activation. J Ethnopharmacol 122:76-85.
  • Li L, Foster C, Gan Q, Nettleton D, James MG, Myers AM, Wurtele ES. 2009. Identification of the Novel Protein QQS as a Component of the Starch Metabolic Network in Arabidopsis Leaves. Plant Journal. Online 2/09 .
  • Berleant D, Zhang L, Jing Ding J, Cao T, Xu J, Fulmer A, Wurtele ES. 2009. Text Empirics-Based Mining of Biomolecular Interactions from Texts: Theory and Application. In press.
  • Birt DF, Widrlechner MP, LaLone CA, Wu L, Bae J, Solco AK, Kraus GA, Murphy PA, Wurtele ES, Leng Q, Hebert SC, Maury WJ, Price JP . 2008. Echinacea in infection. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87(suppl):488S-492S.
  • Hammer, K.D.P., Hillwig, M.L., Neighbors, J.D., Sim, Y-J., Kohut, M, Wiemer, D.F. Wurtele, E.S., and Birt, D.F . 2008. Pseudohypericin is necessary for light-activated inhibition of prostaglandin E2 pathways by Hypericum perforatum. Phytochemistry .
  • Wu L, Dixon PM, Nikolau BJ, Kraus GA, Widrlechner MP, Wurtele ES. 2008. Metabolic Profiling of Echinacea Genotypes and a Test of Alternative Taxonomic Treatments. Planta Medica. Epub 2008 Dec 19 75:178-183.
  • Birt, D.F., Widrlechner, M.P., Hammer, K.D.P., Hillwig, M.L., Wei, J., Kraus, G.A., Murphy, P.A., McCoy, J., Wurtele, E.S., Neighbors, J.D., Wiemer, D.F., Maury, W.J., and Price, J.P. 2008. Hypericum in Infection: Identification of Anti-viral and Anti-inflammatory Constituents. J. Ethnopharmacology submitted.
  • Berleant D, Ding J, Hughes L, Fulmer A, Wurtele ES, Viswanathan K, Schnable PS . 2008. PathBinderH: a tool for sentence-focused, plant taxonomy-sensitive access to the biological literature. chapter 5 in G. P. Rao, C. Wagner & R. K. Singh, eds., Application of Genomics and Bioinformatics in Plants, Studium Press LLC, Houston :pp 121-136.
  • Kher S, Peng J, Wurtele ES, Dickerson J . 2008. A Symbolic Approach to Evidence Code Mapping for Biological Data Integration and Subjective Analysis for Reference Associations for Metabolic Pathways. NAFIPS 2008. Special Biosciences Section:1-6 .
  • Hillwig ML, Hammer KD, Birt DF, Wurtele ES. 2008. Characterizing the metabolic fingerprint and anti-inflammatory activity of Hypericum gentianoides. J Agric Food Chem 56:4359-4366.
  • Cha S, Zhang H, Ilarslan HI, Wurtele ES, Brachova L, Nikolau BJ, Yeung ES. 2008. Direct profiling and imaging of plant metabolites in intact tissues by using colloidal graphite-assisted laser desorption ionization (GALDI) mass spectrometry. Plant Journal. 55:348-360.
  • Lawrence M, Cook D, Lee EK, Babka H, Wurtele ES. 2008. explorase: Multivariate Exploratory Analysis and Visualization. 25Apr .
  • Mentzen W, Peng JL, Nikolau BJ, Wurtele ES. 2008. Articulation of Core Metabolic Processes in Arabidopsis. BMC Plant Biology. 8:76.
  • Mentzen W, Wurtele ES. 2008. Regulon Organization of Arabidopsis. BMC Plant Biology. Sept 30 highly accessed article 8:99.