Our group works on the regulation of metabolism in chloroplasts (and also in bacteria, their evolutionary ancestors). The major focus of our research is the biosynthesis of isoprenoids, one of the main groups of plant natural products. All isoprenoids, including many compounds with interest as nutrients, pigments, drugs, or biofuels, derive from prenyl diphosphates whose production is uniquely compartmentalized in plant cells. In chloroplasts, these precursors are synthesized by the MEP pathway.
We are using forward and reverse genetic as well as biochemical approaches to understand how plants regulate the metabolic flux through the MEP pathway and the cross-talk with downstream pathways for the production of isoprenoid end-products like carotenoids.
Carotenoids are plastidial isoprenoids that contribute to light harvesting, protect the photosynthetic apparatus against excess light, and color non-photosynthetic tissues of many flowers and fruits. Carotenoid-derived products include plant growth regulators such as abscisic acid and strigolactones. The economic interest of carotenoids is mainly based on their use as natural pigments but they are also important as vitamin A precursors and health-promoting phytonutrients. However, our limited knowledge on the molecular mechanisms that regulate plant carotenogenesis is still a major drawback for the generation of new carotenoid-enriched plant varieties. Our current work is unveiling some of these regulatory mechanisms in Arabidopsis and translating the knowledge to crops like tomato, carrot, and melon.