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Exploring Triterpene Diversity in Monocots

Project description

Unraveling triterpene synthesis in plants

Triterpenes are a versatile group of biologically active ingredients present in phytoextacts. Produced by plants as part of their self-defence mechanism, their use is highly valued in pharmaceutics, agriculture and biotechnology. So far, studies on triterpene biosynthesis have largely focused on eudicot plants; little is known about their biosynthesis in monocots. The EU-funded EXTRIDIM project will further investigate the origins of triterpene synthesis in monocots, the mechanism of metabolic diversification in these plants. Focus will be placed on cereals, which are the staple food of more than half of the world's population. Increasing understanding of triterpene biosynthesis in the important cereal crops could help scientists find new ways to protect the crops, ensure food security, and discover new drugs.


Triterpenes are one of the most diverse groups of plant natural products, with important roles in plant defense and wide use in medicine, food, and cosmetics. So far, studies on triterpene biosynthesis have largely focused on eudicot plants, while little is known about triterpene biosynthesis in monocots. Here, we seek to expand current knowledge of triterpene chemistry and biochemistry in monocots and to investigate mechanisms of metabolic diversification in this group of plants, and specifically in the cereals group, which together provides more than half of the global human caloric intake. Monocot genomes will be mined for identification of new triterpene-related genes and biosynthetic gene clusters. These will be utilized for biosynthesis of novel triterpene compounds via combinatorial recombinant expression in yeast and plant systems. Entire triterpene metabolic pathways will ultimately be introduced into the monocot model plant Brachypodium distachyon, and pathogen-tolerance of the engineered plants will be evaluated. This will serve as an important proof-of-concept for the possibility of introducing these pathways into agriculturally-important cereals and grasses. The recent publication of the common wheat genome, coupled with fears for re-emergence of devastating fungal wheat pathogens in Europe, indicate the timeliness and relevance of the proposed action. EXTRIDIM is a highly interdisciplinary project that will draw upon the synergistic combination of the expertise and well-established scientific approach of the host lab, together with the background and complementary skills of the researcher in plant molecular biology and metabolic engineering. The proposed research will greatly contribute to the researcher’s career development and strengthen the host lab, will advance our understanding of triterpene biosynthesis in the agriculturally-important cereal crops, and will potentially lead to new applications in plant protection and drug discovery.


Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
NR4 7UH Norwich
United Kingdom

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East of England East Anglia Breckland and South Norfolk
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 224 933,76