News: FITOMATICS: a project aimed to obtain natural fragrances and antimicrobial compounds
The Isoprenoid Metabolism research group will participate in a collaborative project with the fragrance company CARINSA and the technological institute LEITAT.
The recently resolved call from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities “Retos-Colaboración 2017” has awarded more than one million euros to the project FITOMATICS. This project, coordinated by the Spain-based fragrance company CARINSA and with participation of the research centres CRAG and LEITAT, aims to isolate and characterize the microorganisms (endophytes) that live in endemic aromatic plants of the Mediterranean region. Through metabolic engineering, the researchers will mimic the processes that occur in the endophytes to obtain antimicrobial compounds and volatile organic compounds of interest that can be incorporated into fragrance and aroma formulations. These compounds will be added to CARINSA’s product portfolio without the need to over-exploit natural resources and avoid costly synthetic laboratory procedures.
Plant Endophytes: a yet to be discovered reservoir of natural compounds
The endophytes are endosymbiotic microorganisms (often bacteria or fungi) that colonize plants. Like plants, endophytes harbour a great metabolic diversity presenting some metabolic pathways of the plants incorporated in their genome and new pathways specific to their metabolism. Unlike plants, endophytes present the regulatory genes of a specific metabolic pathway grouped in operons, under the control of a single promoter, thus facilitating the elucidation of synthetic routes. Therefore, endophytes have an enormous potential to produce new bioactive compounds of natural origin without the need to extract these compounds directly from the plant. In addition, the alternative use of endophytes could alleviate serious problems such as overexploitation of plants, deforestation or loss of biodiversity.
The FITOMATICS project is coordinated by CARINSA and at CRAG is led by the UB Professors Teresa Altabella and Albert Ferrer. Professor Altabella and her colleagues at CRAG research group on Isoprenoid Metabolism will contribute with their valuable experience in the identification and functional characterization of native and recombinant enzymes, the elucidation of new routes of synthesis of secondary metabolites, and the reconstruction of biosynthetic pathways in heterologous hosts, particularly in yeasts and plants.
The project has already gathered the attention of the mass media. You can read about it at the newspaper El Periódico (in Spanish)
About the Project Funding:
The project entitled “Producción de compuestos orgánicos volátiles y antimicrobianos mediante procesos biotecnológicos basados en el uso de endófitos e ingeniería metabólica (FITOMATICS)” (RTC-2017-6431-2) is funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the Spanish State Research Agency and the European Regional Development Funds.