News: New control pathways in the synthesis of plant chemical defences
A scientific study reveals a new mechanism to control saponin biosynthesis. Saponins are essential in the adaptation of many plants to the environment and have high biomedical and industrial interest. The article was recently published in the journal Nature. CRAG Researcher Narciso Campos (Professor at the University of Barcelona) participates in the international study led by the expert Alain Goossens from the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB, Belgium).
Secondary metabolites: defence and adaptation to the environment
The study analyses the synthesis of saponins, a group of secondary metabolites found in many plants. Saponins defend plants against environmental aggressions (pathogens, herbivores, etc.), by altering membrane permeability, and have importance in pharmaceutical and industrial sectors as antimicrobial, anticancer and haemolytic agents.
Saponins derive from the isoprenoid (terpenoid) biosynthetic pathway, a metabolic route in which the HMGR (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase) enzyme plays key role. As Professor Narciso Campos mentions, “HMGR was identified four decades ago in mammals, and a few years later in plants and fungi. In the case of humans, it has a key regulatory role in the synthesis of cholesterol, the imbalance of which causes severe abnormalities, such as atherosclerosis. In the case of plants and fungi, the enzyme plays also a crucial role in sterol biosynthesis. Because its biomedical interest, isoprenoid biosynthesis is the subject with the highest number of Nobel Prizes”.
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