A systems approach into the production of plant and algal diterpenes with high industrial and pharmaceutical value

Funding Body: GSRT
Synergasia 09-879

Plants produce an enormous variety of natural products, low molecular weight compounds which have been evolutionarily selected to possess biological targets and actions.

This bioactivity renders them substantially rich in compounds with high industrial value and use. The recentapplication of genomic and metabolomic technologies in plants and especially aromatic and medicinal plants has ushered a new era in the utilization of natural products.

 The current proposal focuses on terpenes, more specifically diterpenes, compounds with characteristic structures that have repeatedly shown to possess pharmaceutical activity such as taxol, a widely used antineoplastic drug and sclareol which is utilized extensively by the food, flavor and fragrance industry. The combination of comparative metabolomic and genomic approaches will enable the exploration of unknown biosynthetic pathways for sclareol as well as for new bioactive compounds, namely Prevezol A and B produced by red algae.

To this aim the full transcriptomes of the plant species Salvia sclarea (Mediterranean plant related to sage) and the red algae Laurencia obtusa will be sequenced employing the new generation sequencing technology. The genetic information will be analyzed bioinformatically. The candidate genes participating in the biosynthetic pathway will be expressed in heterologous microbial systems (E. coli, S. cerevisiae) to functionally characterize the produced diterpenes as well as in transgenic plants such as tobacco, which maximize production yields. The known plasticity of these biosynthetic enzymes will be utilized by targeted engineering approaches to modify diterpene synthases and generate new enzymes producing sclareol and other diterpene compounds.


Antonios Makris
Tel: +302311257541