The genetic manipulation of medicinal and aromatic plants
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Medicinal and aromatic plants have always been intimately linked with human health and culture. Plant-derived medicines constitute a substantial component of present day human healthcare systems in industrialized as well as developing countries. They are products of plant secondary metabolism and are involved in many other aspects of a plant’s interaction with its immediate environment. The genetic manipulation of plants together with the establishment of in vitro plant regeneration systems facilitates efforts to engineer secondary product metabolic pathways. Advances in the cloning of genes involved in relevant pathways, the development of high throughput screening systems for chemical and biological activity, genomics tools and resources, and the recognition of a higher order of regulation of secondary plant metabolism operating at the whole plant level facilitate strategies for the effective manipulation of secondary products in plants. Here, we discuss advances in engineering metabolic pathways for specific classes of compounds in medicinal and aromatic plants and we identify remaining constraints and future prospects in the field. In particular we focus on indole, tropane, nicotine, isoquinoline alcaloids, monoterpenoids such as menthol and related compounds, diterpenoids such as taxol, sequiterpenoids such as artemisinin and aromatic amino acids.