Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Zheren Zhang


Dr. Z. Zhang
+31 71 527 2727

I am interested in understanding the functions of genomic instability in Streptomyces coelicolor. Specifically, I study: (1)The evolutionary and ecological strategies and advantages of having an unstable genome and (2)the molecular mechanisms causing this genomic instability

More information about Zheren Zhang

Brief biography

2008-2012 BSc Biological Science at South China Agricultural University

2013-2015 MSc Microbial Biotechnology and Heath at Leiden University

2015-present PhD Genomic instability in Streptomyces coelicolor (Promotor: Prof. Gilles van Wezel /  Supervisors: Daniel Rozen and Dennis Claessen)


Streptomycetes are a diverse group of filamentous bacteria that inhabit the soil. Due to their competitive living environment,  species in this genus have evolved to have a giant genome with the potentials of producing more than two-thirds of clinically used antibiotics. The large genome allows them to succeed in competing with other microbes, as well as makes them favored by scientists to explore new antibiotics to fight against infective diseases. 

However, the ~9Mb linear chromosome in Streptomyces is inherently unstable and undergoes gross chromosomal rearrangements at an extremely high rate. These chromosomal rearrangements can influence multiple phenotypic traits including sporulation and secondary metabolism. This, on the one hand, can be problematic for the industrial process since this genomic instability can lead to strain degeneration. On the other hand, it is interesting for both ecologists and molecular biologists to understand the functions and mechanisms behind this mysterious phenomenon.

During my PhD research, I am interested in answering the following questions in Streptomyces coelicolor:

(1)What are the effects of genomic instability?

(2)What are the advantages of evolving a large and unstable genome?

(3)What are the molecular mechanisms causing this genomic instability?

By studying these, I hope to elaborate on the evolutionary strategies of filamentous bacteria living in the soil environment, specifically related to its genomic instability. Moreover,  the fundamental knowledge about its mechanisms can help to prevent the strain degeneration in industry, as well as to understand the genomic instability in eukaryotes, which is a hallmark of cancer.


  • Science
  • Instituut Biologie Leiden
  • IBL Microbial Sciences


This website uses cookies.  More information.