Ansatte – Københavns Universitet

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Institut for Plante- og Miljøvidenskab > Ansatte

Irini Pateraki

Irini Pateraki

Adjunkt

Plants are able to produce a plethora of specialised 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 am 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 now the precise biosynthetic pathway and production site of forskolin was unknown.

Currently we have already showed that the first two steps of the biosynthesis of forskolin are active in Coleus forskohlii root cork cells. The specific type of cells is harbouring 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.

Using Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) generated transcriptomes we have managed to identify and characterize the diterpene synthases that are involved in the synthesis of manoyl oxide, the first steps of forskolin biosynthesis. These knowledge and findings will assist in the discoveries of the remaining biosynthetic components, thus potentially leading to sustainable forskolin production through biotechnological applications e.g. using microorganisms as forskolin production hosts.

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