Plant Science

Transferring a bioactive

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Science  19 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6301, pp. 787-788
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6301.787-e

Once only found in small hairs on sweet wormwood plants, artemisinin can now be produced by tobacco plants.

PHOTO: MANFRED RUCKSZIO / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Artemisinin, which is critical in defense against malaria, was originally found in tiny hairs on the surface of leaves of the plant Artemisia annua. But this source plant does not support a sufficiently stable supply of artemisinin for worldwide use. Fuentes et al. have developed a synthetic biology approach termed COSTREL (combinatorial supertransformation of transplastomic recipient lines) that produces the immediate precursor of artemisinin, artemisinic acid, in widely cultivated tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum cv. Petit Havana). The first stage of COSTREL involves transformation of tobacco chloroplasts with genes encoding the core enzymes of the artemisinin biosynthetic pathway. With that pathway established, the second stage involves combinatorial nuclear transformation to superimpose genes that regulate flux through the biosynthetic pathway. A transformation mix supports selection of the most optimal gene combination. The resulting tobacco plants produce artemisinic acid at up to ~4.8 kg per acre.

eLife 10.7554/eLife.13664 (2016).

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