Michigan State researchers develop synthetic biology tools to co-produce high value compounds in plants

March 5, 2019 |

In Michigan, Michigan State University scientists have developed synthetic biology tools to co-produce high-value compounds in plants. The study is published this week in the journal Nature Communications.

Terpenoids form the largest class of natural products in plants and have been used by humans for thousands of years. Modern applications for terpenoids range wide, from pharmaceuticals, fragrances, nutraceuticals, biopesticides to chemical feedstocks. However, in the context of industrial scale production, plant accumulation of terpenoids is rather low. And, in the pursuit to extract natural terpenoids, some wild plant species have even become endangered.

The new synthetic biology tools allow to produce both terpenoids and oil, a biofuel resource, in plant leaves. Plants do not normally accumulate large amounts of oil in leaves. Benning’s work on plant oils and lipids served as a basis to enhance the oil content in leaves. The oil is stored in plant cells in small lipid droplets that are surrounded by a lipid layer coated with proteins.
The study shows that expand iconlipid droplets can themselves serve as an engineering platform for terpenoid production. The Hamberger lab focuses on metabolic engineering of terpenoid biosynthetic pathways.

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Category: Research

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