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Regulation and Metabolic Engineering of Saponins for use as bio-pesticides.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REMES (Regulation and Metabolic Engineering of Saponins for use as bio-pesticides.)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

A major problem in agriculture is the damage caused by insect pests and pathogens, and therefore there is a critical need to develop novel and sustainable methods to reduce these losses. Plants produce a vast diversity of specialized chemicals that deter antagonist, but in spite of their potential for pest management, they are still largely unexplored. We need to understand better how such defense compounds are synthesized by plants and what conditions trigger and regulate their production, in order to develop and use them sustainably. The overall objective of the REMES project was to uncover the genetic and molecular basis of the biosynthesis and regulation of triterpenoid saponins, using the insect-resistant wild crucifer Barbarea vulgaris as a model system, and explore their use as bio-pesticides. Altogether, this project aimed to improve our understanding of saponin biosynthesis and regulation, in order to develop them as sustainable solutions for agriculture and the environment.
In this project, I successfully implemented a tissue culture and transformation protocol for the plant B. vulgaris. In addition, I set up rearing and feeding experiments using the Brassica insect pest Plutella xyllostella (choice and non-choice). The protocol for B. vulgaris transformation will allow to test relevant candidate genes for the biosynthesis and regulation of saponins for their future use as bio-pesticides. As part of my work during the project, I wrote an invited review on evolution of triterpenoids (Cardenas et al., 2019, Frontiers in Plant Science) and participated in the characterization of the saponin biosynthetic gene CYP72A552 (Qing et al., New Phytologist).
The knowledge obtained through this project can be used as model platform for the development of future bio-pesticides. The establishment of a tissue culture and transformation protocol of B. vulgaris enable us to engineer tailored production of specialized metabolites in planta. This has the potential to improve the positioning of the EU as a leader in manufacture of future sustainable solutions for agriculture.
Biosynthesis of saponins in B. vulgaris