31 January 2017

Cracking the code of toxic lupin beans

Fernando Geu-Flores, young investigator at CPSC, has received 10 million DKK from the VILLUM Foundation to investigate how the protein-rich lupin bean can be cleared of toxic alkaloids. The lupin bean could be a good solution for how Europe can become self-sufficient in proteins.

Foto: Pexels.

You probably recognize the pretty flowers of the lupin plant from the Danish gardens. And you may also be familiar with the scary stories about its toxicity, prompting you to stay clear of eating this otherwise inviting plant.

The beans from the lupin plant are, however, full of protein and they are particularly resistant to pests. This make them a promising candidate in the global hunt for sustainable protein sources e.g. for feed.

Fernando Geu-Flores lab at Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen has received 10 million DKK from the VILLUM Young Investigator Programme. The research group is going to investigate how the farming industry can produce non-toxic lupin beans that are still resistant to insects and other pests.

Edible beans do not keep the pests away
Breeders have already developed variants of the lupin plant with low alkaloid content in the entire plant. But this has had the consequence that the plant is no longer deterring pests. It is therefore not optimal for large scale production.

During the next five years, Fernando Geu-Flores’ group will elucidate how the alkaloids are made and transported around in the plant. They aim at isolating the toxin in specific plant tissue and not in the edible part of the beans.

The project will identify which enzymes and transporters are involved in the biosynthesis and translocation of alkaloids in the lupin plant. In addition to the contribution to filling the knowledge gap in this area, the project will form the basis for the development of a pest resistant lupin variety that accumulate specific alkaloids of industrial relevance but is still producing alkaloid free beans.