, Volume 88, Issue 2, pp 437-449
Date: 07 Aug 2010

Tanshinone biosynthesis in Salvia miltiorrhiza and production in plant tissue cultures

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Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge (Lamiaceae) root, generally called Danshen, is an important herb in Chinese medicine widely used for treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Diterpenoid tanshinons are major bioactive constituents of Danshen with notable pharmacological activities and the potential as new drug candidates against some important human diseases. The importance of Danshen for traditional and modern medicines has motivated the research interest over two decades in the biosynthesis and biotechnological production of tanshinones. Although diterpenes in plants are presumably derived from the non-mevalonate (MVA) pathway, tanshinone biosynthesis in S. miltiorrhiza may also depend on the MVA pathway based on some key enzymes and genes detected in the early steps of these pathways. Plant tissue cultures are the major biotechnological processes for rapid production of tanshinones and other bioactive compounds in the herb. Various in vitro cultures of S. miltiorrhiza have been established, including cell suspension, adventitious root, and hairy root cultures, which can accumulate the major tanshinones as in the plant roots. Tanshinone production in cell and hairy root cultures has been dramatically enhanced with various strategies, including medium optimization, elicitor stimulation, and nutrient feeding operations. This review will summarize the above developments and also provide our views on future trends.