Synthetic biology tools used to produce terpenoids, oil in plants

May 5, 2019 |

In Michigan, scientists at Michigan State University developed synthetic biology tools to co-produce high-value compounds in plants. The new tools allow to produce both terpenoids and oil, a biofuel resource, in plant leaves. Modern applications for terpenoids range wide, from pharmaceuticals, fragrances, nutraceuticals and biopesticides, to chemical feedstocks.

Terpenoids form the largest class of natural products in plants and have been used by humans for thousands of years. 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.

“We investigated novel strategies to sustainably produce high-value terpenoid biomaterials in plants,” said Radin Sadre, synthetic biologist and biochemist in the Department of Horticulture.

“We used a lipid droplet surface expand protein from a microalga to anchor different terpenoid synthesis expand enzymes onto the surface of the plant lipid droplets,” Sadre said. “Targeting of distinct terpenoid synthesis steps to the lipid droplets leads to efficient production of terpenoids.”

These experiments were done at laboratory scale in the tobacco relative, Nicotiana benthamiana. The ultimate goal is the production of industrially relevant terpenoids in high-yield biomass crops, such as switchgrass.

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Category: Research

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