Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Inside a plant’s pharma factory

02.04.2012
A newly discovered enzyme brings scientists one step closer to understanding how plants manufacture a molecule with potent medicinal properties
Plants of the genus Glycyrrhiza are best known as key ingredients in the popular treat licorice, but they also have a valuable place in the medicine cabinet. These plants employ a complex assembly line of enzymes to produce a molecule called glycyrrhizin, a potent sweetener that also acts as a highly effective anti-inflammatory and antiviral agent.

The process of glycyrrhizin biosynthesis is incompletely understood, but research from a team led by Kazuki Saito and Toshiyuki Muranaka at the RIKEN Plant Science Center in Yokohama helps to fill some of the gaps. According to Saito, these efforts depended on close collaboration between multiple research teams. Members of the ‘All-Japan Licorice Research Consortium’, pooled their research resources, which was the strong basis for the success of this project, according to Saito.

The researchers were particularly interested in enzymes known as cytochrome P450 mono-oxygenases. For a previous study, they prepared a large library of gene sequences expressed by Glycyrrhiza to identify previously uncharacterized P450s2. This time around, Saito and Muranaka performed a functional assay in which they expressed several of these putative P450s in cultured cells so they could identify enzymes that act on specific intermediates in glycyrrhizin manufacture.
They identified one protein, CYP72A154, which recognized the early glycyrrhizin intermediate 11-oxo-â-amyrin as a substrate. Remarkably, this enzyme appears to perform multiple sequential oxidation reactions on this compound, effectively moving the synthetic process forward three steps. To confirm these findings, they tested the function of CYP72A154 by co-expressing it alongside other enzymes known to participate in this biological process. “We achieved biotechnological production of glycyrrhetinic acid, an intermediate of glycyrrhizin, by means of synthetic biology in yeast,” says Muranaka.

This demonstration of partial glycyrrhizin biosynthesis represents an important step in the right direction: even though this valuable molecule is easily purified from licorice plants, scientists may ultimately find themselves forced to resort to laboratory production methods. “There is a potential risk of a shortage of natural resources in the near future,” says Saito. “Another problem is that China, the dominant supplier of licorice, is setting restrictions on licorice exports as a governmental policy.”

Several pieces are still missing from the puzzle, but Saito and Muranaka are excited to learn what remains to be found, both from a biotechnology perspective and in terms of understanding aspects of plant evolutionary history. “We still don’t know why and how higher plants have evolved the production systems for such interesting compounds,” says Muranaka.

The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Metabolomic Function Research Group, RIKEN Plant Science Center

gro-pr | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.riken.jp
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Study suggests oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution
17.10.2017 | Virginia Institute of Marine Science

nachricht World first for reading digitally encoded synthetic molecules
17.10.2017 | CNRS

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study suggests oysters offer hot spot for reducing nutrient pollution

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

17.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

World first for reading digitally encoded synthetic molecules

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>