3D: Defining Diversity in Diterpenoids in the genus Coleus: mining phylogeny for medicinal applications


Plants have provided key pharmaceuticals and are valued as traditional medicines, but their untapped potential as sources of medicines remains largly unexplored. This project will explore species of the closely related tropical plant genera Plectranthus and Coleus (Lamiaceae), which have been used extensively as medicinal plants affecting diseases of the cardiovascular, respiratory and nervous systems, and have shown anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. Yet many species in these groups have not been assessed for their potential medicinal value, nor for the occurrence and distribution of biologically active diterpenoids.

Given that there are many medicinal plants in these genera, limited knowledge of the occurrence and distribution of their diterpenoids is impeding further research on the (i) diversity and evolution of diterpenoids, and (ii) the scientific basis for the medicinal uses of Coleus and Plectranthus species and their constituents.

The 3D project will address these knowledge gaps by mining the phylogenetic diversity of Coleus for new medicinals. The project will involve a close collaboration between the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew, taking advantage of state-of-the-art facilities (LC-MS, GC-MS, Laser Microdissection, MALDI-Imaging) at each institution, and the extensive living and herbarium plant collections in the unique environment of RBG Kew. This collaborative 3D project will harness the complementary facilities and expertise available at JIC and RBG Kew, to enable the most suitable species to be selected, to uncover the breadth of biosynthetic pathways involved in synthesising bioactive chemicals (diterpenoids), and shed new light on their current and potential medicinal uses. This new knowledge will provide further evidence for the value of biodiversity and unlock new incentives for the conservation and sustainable management of plants, thus aligning with strategies to prevent biodiversity loss.


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