University of Cambridge > > Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars > Plant Metabolic Clusters – From Genetics to Genomics

Plant Metabolic Clusters – From Genetics to Genomics

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact david baulcombe.

Third "Enid MacRobbie Women in Science" lecture

Plants produce a wealth of natural products that are valuable as industrial or pharmaceutical products. The growing reliance on chemicals from plants is driving demand for green, environmentally friendly and sustainable feedstocks across industrial sectors in order to enable us to reduce our dependence on products derived from chemical refineries. Importantly, many of the natural products that are produced by plants are structurally complex and beyond the reach of chemical synthesis. These compounds are commonly extracted from plant material either growing in the wild or in cultivation. Availability is limited by difficulties in accessing and cultivating source species, low yield and problems of purification. The scale of the economic opportunity for improving the supply of high value products from plants is therefore enormous.

The vast majority of the natural product diversity encoded by plant genomes remains as yet untapped. The explosion in plant genome sequence data, coupled with affordable DNA synthesis and new DNA assembly technologies, now offer unprecedented opportunities to harness the full breadth of plant natural product diversity and generate novel molecules in foreign hosts using synthetic biology approaches. The recent discovery that genes for the synthesis of different kinds of natural products are organised in biosynthetic gene clusters in plant genomes opens up opportunities for mining for new pathways and chemistries. This advance, in combination with powerful new transient plant expression technology, is enabling the development of rational strategies to produce known and new-to-nature chemicals tailored for particular applications. This presentation will focus on our work on developing a translational synthetic biology pipeline for rapid preparative access to plant natural products and novel analogs using synthetic biology approaches. It will also highlight recent advances in our understanding of the genomic rearrangements underpinning the formation of new plant biosynthetic gene clusters.

Enid MacRobbie (FRS) is a pioneer of plant biophysics, the first woman to be awarded a personal Chair in science at Cambridge and our first female Head of Department. She continues to inspire.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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