Engineering Crops for Increased Content of Phytochemicals

Genetic engineering of stress response pathways for production of phytochemicals with health benefits.
PI:  Hisashi Koiwa
Production of secondary metabolite phytochemicals are highly regulated process in plants.  The potential of production of such phytochemicals in crop plants are often not explored extensively because hyperaccumulation of such phytochemicals are often associated with inhibition of vegetative growth and low yields.  In my project at VFIC, the focus is to engineer tunable phytochemical production in crop plants.  Expression of regulators of phytochemical production under control of inducible promoters allow crop plants to start production of phytochemicals at desired timing.  In model system using Arabidopsis we engineered phenylpropanoid pathway to produce anthocyanins upon shifting temperature to 4-5°C.  Plants produced 30-fold higher amount of phytochemicals in this system (Figure 1).  We are expanding our target pathways, regulation systems, and crop plants to apply this technology.


Vikram M., Feng Y, Park S., Yoo, K. S., and Koiwa, H. (2009) Designing a molecular switch to optimize phenylpropanoid neutraceuticals in vegetables Acta Hort 841:615-618

Feng, Y., Cao, C.M., Vikram, M., Park, S., Kim, H.J., Hong, J.C., Cisneros-Zevallos, L., and Koiwa, H. (2011) A Three-Component Gene Expression System and Its Application for Inducible Flavonoid Overproduction in Transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana. PLoS One 6, e17603.

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