Ansatte på Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab – Københavns Universitet

Irini Pateraki

Irini Pateraki


Plants are able to produce a plethora of specialized metabolites that are used for their interaction with the environment. Among these metabolites terpenoids are the oldest and most diverse class. Our group is interested in elucidating the plant biosynthetic pathways responsible for the synthesis of these high value bioactive terpenoids that exhibit a number of medicinal properties.

Personally I am interested in forskolin, a labdane type diterpenoid produced from the ayurvedic plant Coleus forskohlii, and I have been engaged into the discovery of the complete pathway of this metabolite. The pharmaceutical properties of forskolin are attributed to its ability to increase intracellular cAMP levels which then assist in the relaxation of human blood and respiratory vessels. In nature, forskolin is produced in the roots of Coleus forskohlii, but until recently the precise biosynthetic pathway and production site of forskolin were unknown.

Elucidation of the biosynthetic pathway of forskolin became possible using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) generated transcriptomes and targeted metabolomics. The genes involved in forskolin biosynthesis are mainly expressed in Coleus forskohlii root cork cells. The specific type of cells is harboring cytosolic oil bodies (OBs) where forskolin and other bioactive terpenoids are stored. Chemical analysis of these root oil bodies revealed that they have the capacity to store an array of terpenoids, including forskolin and its biosynthetic precursor, manoyl oxide. This indicates a unique and novel function for these lipophilic intracellular compartments.

The next steps of our research are firstly to express forskolin biosynthetic pathway in heterologous hosts for sustainable production of forskolin, but also to study the transcriptional regulation of the different diterpenoids pathways in Coleus plants.

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