Metabolic engineering of flavonoids in plants and microorganisms
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Over 9,000 flavonoid compounds have been found in various plants, comprising one of the largest families of natural products. Flavonoids are an essential factor in plant interactions with the environment, often serving as the first line of defense against UV irradiation and pathogen attacks. Flavonoids are also major nutritional compounds in foods and beverages, with demonstrated health benefits. Some flavonoids are potent antioxidants, and specific flavonoid compounds are beneficial in many physiological and pharmacological processes. Therefore, engineering of flavonoid biosynthesis in plants or in microorganisms has significant scientific and economical importance. Construction of biosynthetic pathways in heterologous systems offers promising results for large-scale flavonoid production by fermentation or bioconversion. Genomics and metabolomics now offer unprecedented tools for detailed understanding of the engineered transgenic organism and for developing novel technologies to further increase flavonoid production yields. We summarize some of the recent metabolic engineering strategies in plants and microorganisms, with a focus on applications of metabolic flux analysis. We are confident that these engineering approaches will lead to successful industrial flavonoid production in the near future.