Biotech Updates

Scientists Develop Rubber-Enriched Dandelion through Metabolic Engineering

February 15, 2017

Natural rubber (NR) is an important raw material for industrial products, with the primary source being the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis. However, increased global demand means that alternative sources are required. The Russian dandelion (Taraxacum koksaghyz) is a potential alternative due to large amounts of NR produced in its root system. However, rubber synthesis must be improved in dandelion for it to be a feasible alternate. T. koksaghyz also produces large amounts of the carbohydrate inulin, which is stored in parenchymal root cell vacuoles near the phloem.

Scientist Anna Stolze of the University of Muenster in Germany and colleagues performed a comprehensive analysis of inulin and NR metabolism in T. koksaghyz and its relative T. brevicorniculatum and characterized the enzyme fructan 1-exohydrolase (1-FEH), which catalyzes the degradation of inulin to fructose and sucrose. Overexpression of Tk1-FEH almost doubled the rubber content in the roots of two dandelion species without any negative effect on the plant since it degraded stored inulin to boost NR production.

This is the first study showing that the reserve carbohydrate inulin can be used to promote the synthesis of NR in dandelions.

For more on this study, read the article in Plant Biotechnology Journal.