This RTD project comprises a multidisciplinary, integrated approach to obtain transgenic crops for the production of novel, tailor-made fructans with a wide range of applications in food and non-food industries.
The products that will be manufactured as a result of the technology developed within this project will have profound benefits for the health and well-being of mankind as well as the environment. In food, fructans can be applied as low-calory sweetener, dietary fibre and bulking agent. In addition, fructans may stimulate growth of the health promoting bifidus-flora in the human digestive system. It is anticipated that these developments will result in the availability of a healthier food package for the consumer without making concessions to quality and enjoyment. Non food applications can include the use of fructans and its derivatives as a raw material in the production of biodegradable plastics, cosmetics and sequestrants as well as co-builder for the detergent industry. The biodegradability of fructans and its origin from a renewable resource make it potentially valuable as a 'green' chemical. Therefore, the fructan technology can in principle contribute to the reduction of the waste issue as well as the appeal to scarce materials. So far, fructans have found limited application in food and non-food due to a number of factors, the most important ones being the low quality of the available fructans as well as the poor agronomic performance of the traditional fructan containing crops like chicory and Jerusalem artichoke. These limitations cannot be overcome by traditional breeding practices or chemical processing and hamper severely the development of this, in potential, mega industry. In this respect, genetic engineering of plants offers new perspectives. This technology has demonstrated the feasibility of introducing new traits into plants including the biosynthesis of new carbohydrates like fructans. By applying genetic engineering techniques it will be possible to overcome the major drawbacks of the current fructan technology and realize a flexible, cost-effective production of novel types of fructans in transgenic crops which justifies further exploration of the food and non food applications as mentioned above. Moreover, agriculture will benefit from these developments as further diversification of its products will be realized. In this project several disciplines, covering the whole column ranging from molecular biology to application research, have been integrated to optimize the chances for a successful completion of the project. Several genes encoding fructosyltransferases of different origin are currently available for this project. These include bacterial genes which encode fructosyltransferases able to synthesize high molecular weight fructans as well as three key genes of plant origin which encode a fructosyltransferases able to synthesize low molecular weight fructans. With these probes available the project will know an energetic start in which the isolation procedure of additional genes involved in fructan metabolism can be tackled routinely. In addition, several constitutive as well as developmentally regulated plant promoters combined with intracellular targeting signals are available and will be used to make synthetic genes most optimal for fructan biosynthesis in transgenic crop plants. Expression in transgenic model plants of bacterial fructosyltransferase genes recently resulted in the accumulation of significant amounts of fructans which demonstrates the feasibility of the approach. The transgenic plant material resulting from these research efforts will be thoroughly analyzed molecularly, biochemically as well as agronomically in order to determine the limiting factors for fructan production through transgenic crops. With the availability of transgenic fructan accumulating plants it will be possible to develop the extraction procedure, perform chemical and structural characterisation studies and explore the food and non-food applications of these novel fructans. This project embodies scientifically as well as technologically an exciting and perspective challenge to contribute to a sustainable, competitive industrial development.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
4704 RA Roosendaal
67283 Obrigheim / Pfalz
3584 CH Utrecht