Phytochemicals – Biosynthesis, Function and Application

Volume 44 of the series Recent Advances in Phytochemistry pp 85-107


Bioproducts, Biofuels, and Perfumes: Conifer Terpene Synthases and their Potential for Metabolic Engineering

  • Philipp ZerbeAffiliated withMichael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia
  • , Jörg BohlmannAffiliated withMichael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia Email author 

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Conifer trees, including the economically and ecologically important pine (Pinus), spruce (Picea), and fir (Abies) species, produce large amounts of oleoresin terpenoids as a defense against herbivores and pathogens. Due to the structural diversity of oleoresin terpenoids and their various chemical and physical properties, which range from solid and viscous resins to liquids and volatiles, many of these compounds are useful to humans for the production of therapeutics, fragrances and flavors, biofuels, and fine chemicals. In this chapter, we feature three examples of conifer terpenoids, the diterpene resin acids (DRA), the sesquiterpene E-α-bisabolene, and the diterpenol cis-abienol, to highlight the versatile utility of conifer terpenoids as renewable bioproducts. We focus on recent research progress on conifer terpene synthases (TPS) which produce a wealth of terpene scaffolds in nature. Our recent advances in conifer transcriptome and genome sequencing as well as metabolite analyses have accelerated discovery and definitive functional annotation of terpenoid pathway genes. New insights into the evolutionary diversification of conifer TPS, their modular organization, and dynamic expression will be fundamental to advance metabolic engineering and synthetic biology platforms for high-value terpenoids.


Conifer defense Plant specialized metabolism Terpene synthase Metabolic engineering Bioproducts Biofuel