Synthetic Biology

Engineering plant metabolism

Alain Goossens

VIB/Ghent University, Belgium


Research interests

Across the plant kingdom, the jasmonate hormone steers the delicate balance between growth and the activation of defence programs, such as the production of bioactive secondary metabolites. By using cutting-edge functional genomics tools, in combination with reverse genetics screenings, we aim to identify the essential components acting in the jasmonate signalling network, in medicinal plants and in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

VIB & Ghent University


Speaker abstract

Plant cells are capable of producing an overwhelming variety of secondary metabolites, both in terms of complexity and quantity. These small organic molecules allow plants to cope with various types of stresses but often also have biological activities of high interest to human. Yet, this impressive metabolic machinery is still hardly exploited, mainly because of the limited molecular insight into plant secondary metabolism. By genetically characterizing the molecular mechanisms driving plant natural product biosynthesis, we aim to increase our fundamental understanding of the dynamics in plant metabolism and simultaneously create a toolbox for metabolic engineering of plants and microorganisms.

A functional genomics based technology platform has been created that enables large-scale gene discovery programs in plant metabolism. The platform is built on the integration of transcriptome, proteome, interactome and metabolome profiling, which drives the design of subsequent reverse genetics screenings in plants or microorganisms. We exploit the fact that jasmonates can be employed universally across the plant kingdom to modulate metabolism. By profiling jasmonate elicited tissues of model, such as Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula, and medicinal plants such as Catharanthus roseus, Bupleurum falcatum, Panax ginseng, or Taxus baccata, we have built an extensive collection of thousands of genes potentially involved in all aspects of plant metabolism.

Such collections will increase our fundamental understanding of plant metabolism, and will simultaneously serve as a novel resource for metabolic engineering tools that will facilitate sustainable production of existing or novel plant-derived molecules with superior bioactivities for the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical or agrochemical industries.

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