Alkaloid Biosynthesis and Transport

Uncovering the chemical secrets of plants

Plants are the world’s greenest chemists. Powered by solar energy, they produce a variety of natural products with medicinal and industrial applications. However, the precise manner in which plants produce and mobilize many of these compounds remains unknown. Our group combines a solid background in chemistry with state-of-the-art technologies in a quest to uncover the chemical secrets of plants, with special focus on alkaloids. Biotechnological applications include the production of medicinal compounds in cost-effective systems and the removal of anti-nutritional compounds from promising crops.

 

 

 

  • Alkaloid biosynthesis. Alkaloids are a class of natural products that have had an enormous impact on the quality of human life. Their impressive range of bioactivities has led to utilization as pharmaceuticals, stimulants, and pesticides (e.g. morphine, caffeine, nicotine). Our group specializes in the discovery of plant enzymes involved in the conversion of simple metabolic building blocks into complex alkaloid structures.
  • Alkaloid transport. Very often, plant alkaloids are accumulated in tissues that are different from the ones that produce them. Our group investigates the long-distance networks translocating alkaloids from biosynthesis sites to storage sites, with emphasis on the discovery of transporter proteins.
    • Synthetic biology. We use our discoveries to devise strategies for the cost-effective production of medicinal alkaloids in production hosts such as yeast or the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. In cases where toxic alkaloids accumulate in promising crop plants, we use novel breeding technologies to remove the toxic alkaloids from the edible parts of the plant in a selective manner.
    • MicroProteins. We’re currently hosting members of the former research group of Professor Stephan Wenkel, now at Umeå Plant Science Center. The group studies the role of microProteins in plant development and adaptation in both model and crop plants. Current group members:
      • Alexandra Miotti, MSc student
      • Ashleigh Katrina Edwards, PhD student
      • Giacomo Matera, ERASMUS student
      • Louise Petri, PhD student
      • Maurizio Junior Chiurazzi, PhD student 
      • Ylenia Vitozzi, PhD student

    For students wishing to work within these topics, M.Sc. and B.Sc. projects are currently available. Please contact feg@plen.ku.dk

     

     

     

     

    • ZEN – Zero-vicine faba beans (DFF-FTP Project 2, 2022-2025)
    • Sustainable production of the glaucoma drug pilocarpine (DFF-FTP Project 2, 2022-2025)
    • The Impossible Bean (DFF-Green Research granted to Karen Michiko Frick, 2023-2026)
    • PiloSyn - Elucidation of the biosynthesis pathway of the glaucoma drug pilocarpine (MSCA postdoc fellowship granted to Katharina Vollheyde, 2023-2025)
    • NovoCrops - Accelerated domestication of resilient climate-change friendly plant species (NNF Challenge Programme; WP on lupins led by Fernando Geu-Flores, 2020-2026; WP on alfalfa led by Stephan Wenkel, 2020-2023)
    • Adapting to change - The role of alternative microProteins unfolding their hidden potential (DFF-Project 1 granted to Stephan Wenkel, 2020-2024)
    • UnZIPping tomato fruit production (DFF-Project 1 granted to Stephan Wenkel, 2020-2024)
    • MORE - MicroProtein-engineering to Optimize plant development to increase REsources (NNF Ascending Investigator project granted to Stephan Wenkel, 2020-2023 UCPH; 2023-2025 UPSC)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Our group is part of the NNF-funded NovoCrops centre.

     

     

     

     

    Alkaloid biosynthesis in faba bean:

    • Stig Uggerhøj Andersen (Aarhus University, Denmark)
    • Alan Schulman (University of Helsinki, Finland)
    • Sanja Roje (Washington State University, USA)

    Alkaloid biosynthesis and transport in lupins:

    • Matthew Nelson (Kew Gardens, UK)
    • Benjamin Péret (University of Montpellier, France)
    • Magdalena Kroc (Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland)
    • Hussam Nour-Eldin (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

    Alkaloid biosynthesis in jaborandi:

    • Guilherme Oliveira (VALE Institute of Technology, Brazil)

    Synthetic biology:

    • Nicola Patron (Earlham Institute, UK)
    • Sotirios Kampranis (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
    • Toni Wendt (Traitomic, Carlsberg A/S, Denmark)

     

     

     

    Research group leader

    Fernando Geu-Flores
    Associate Professor
    feg@plen.ku.dk
    +45 35 33 28 52

    Group members

    Navn Titel Telefon E-mail
    Ashleigh Katrina Edwards Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535322137 E-mail
    Davide Mancinotti Postdoc +4535326095 E-mail
    Denise Vivian Marleen Blume Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535329734 E-mail
    Fernando Geu-Flores Lektor +4535332852 E-mail
    Henryk Straube Postdoc +4535328955 E-mail
    Huayi Huang Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535333823 E-mail
    Isabelle May Angstman Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535325984 E-mail
    Louise Petri Ph.d.-stipendiat +4535333610 E-mail
    Maurizio Junior Chiurazzi Postdoc +4535320281 E-mail
    Ylenia Vittozzi Ph.d.-stipendiat   E-mail