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Crop Biotech Update

Purdue Researchers Discover Key to Mass Producing Beneficial Plant Compounds

August 29, 2018

A group of scientists from Purdue University has discovered the switch in plants that turns off the production of terpenoids. Terpenoids are plant compounds that play roles in plant physiology and are used in everything from fragrances and flavoring to biofuels and pharmaceuticals, but plants often produce them in low quantities.

Natalia Dudareva, Purdue distinguished professor in the Department of Biochemistry, explains that plants control metabolic pathways by regulating the pool of monophosphates used for terpenoid production. The scientists have already determined the "on" and "off" switches for terpenoid production and also discovered a hidden constraint on flux through the plant terpenoid metabolic pathway.

Isopentenyl phosphate kinases (IPK) convert pools of monophosphates into diphosphates that can be converted through downstream processes into terpenes. Dudareva and colleagues determined that two Nudix enzymes are responsible for dephosphorylation. They showed that IPK and Nudix work together to regulate product formation. However, some of these products could be toxic to plants if plants make too much of them. This is how plants regulate their outputs. The team is now working on methods to engineer plant metabolic pathways to increase terpenoid production.

For more details, read the Purdue University Agriculture News.