Mining and engineering bioactives from medicinal herbs     

PATRON_E23DTP2

Plants synthesise multitudes of compounds that contribute to adaptation to their ecological niches, serving as attractants for beneficial organisms and providing defence against biotic and abiotic agents.

However, the genetic basis of their biosynthesis remains largely unknown. As we have recently demonstrated, knowledge of the biosynthetic pathways of medicinally important compounds allows their biosynthesis in heterologous organisms.

This project will focus on the biosynthesis and anti-inflammatory activity of bioactive natural products from Eupatorium cannabinum commonly known as hemp-agrimony. This species is known to produce molecules that can inhibit the growth of parasites and suppress chronic inflammation.

Working at the Earlham Institute on the Norwich Research Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the student will integrate metabolomics and transcriptomics to identify the biosynthetic pathways of bioactive molecules, applying cutting-edge conduct single cell sequencing to explore the cells in which the pathways are expressed.

To explore methods for bioproduction of target molecules, they will engineer the pathway into a heterologous host. Finally, in collaboration with the O’Connell lab in the Pharmacy department at the University of East Anglia, they will test bioactivity.

This project will provide training in a range of molecular, chemical, and bioinformatics skills. It has the potential impact not only through the understanding of plant chemodiversity and the provision of novel molecules for health but also by advancing methods for sustainable bio-based manufacturing.

References

1. Michalak et al J Nat Prod. 2019 Feb 22;82(2):375-385. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.8b00939

2. Dudley et al https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.12.456143

3. Li et al https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.07.04.498697