, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 49-58,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 17 Jun 2006

Metabolic Engineering of Terpenoid Biosynthesis in Plants

Abstract

Metabolic engineering of terpenoids in plants is a fascinating research topic from two main perspectives. On the one hand, the various biological activities of these compounds make their engineering a new tool for improving a considerable number of traits in crops. These include for example enhanced disease resistance, weed control by producing allelopathic compounds, better pest management, production of medicinal compounds, increased value of ornamentals and fruit and improved pollination. On the other hand, the same plants altered in the profile of terpenoids and their precursor pools make a most important contribution to fundamental studies on terpenoid biosynthesis and its regulation. In this review we describe our recent results with terpenoid engineering, focusing on two terpenoid classes the monoterpenoids and sesquiterpenoids. The emerging picture is that engineering of these compounds and their derivatives in plant cells is feasible, although with some requirements and limitations. For example, in terpenoid engineering experiments crucial factors are the subcellular localisation of both the precursor pool and the introduced enzymes, the activity of endogenous plant enzymes which modify the introduced terpenoid skeleton, the costs of engineering in terms of effects on other pathways sharing the same precursor pool and the phytotoxicity of the introduced terpenoids. Finally, we will show that transgenic plants altered in their terpenoid profile exert novel biological activities on their environment, for example influencing insect behaviour.

A. Aharoni is an Incumbent of the Adolfo and Evelyn Blum Career Development chair