Metabolic Engineering of the Alkaloid Biosynthesis in Plants: Functional Genomics Approaches

  • Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey
  • Suvi T. Häkkinen
  • Heiko Rischer


Numerous pharmaceuticals currently on the market are based on plant-derived compounds. Many of these compounds are still isolated from whole plants, this being the only feasible production method. The exploitation of cell culture systems and biotechnological production of these complex molecules has been limited by the limited knowledge on their biosynthesis. Understanding the complexity of the regulation of plant metabolism has deepened in recent years, due to major advances in plant genomics and metabolomics. A general problem encountered when characterizing the plant metabolome is the extreme diversity of the compounds which sets a challenge to analytical methods. Modern systems biology tools, together with the development of large plant genomics and metabolomics databases will dramatically facilitate the advance in our knowledge of gene-to-metabolite networks in plants

Here we describe recent progress in studies on nicotine, terpenoid indole and tropane alkaloid pathways, and introduce the technology platform which has been developed for the exploration of poorly understood biosynthetic pathways in medicinal plants. This approach, based on functional genomics, has been applied to identify genes involved in alkaloid pathways. Furthermore, it is shown how combinatorial biochemistry can be used for creating entirely novel plant-derived compounds. The great advantage of this technology is that it’s applicable to any plant species, this being particularly important when it comes to exotic medicinal plants. Better understanding of metabolite synthesis and its regulation will be of crucial importance for improving the efficiency and sustainability of plant secondary metabolite production


nicotine alkaloids terpenoid indole alkaloids tropane alkaloids functional genomics pathway engineering 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey
    • 1
  • Suvi T. Häkkinen
    • 1
  • Heiko Rischer
    • 1
  1. 1.VTT Technical Research Centre of FinlandP.O. Box 1000Finland

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