Plants as biofactories for insect sex pheromones production

Project: Dissertation

Project Details


Aphids represent millions of dollars in damage to crops world-wide. The current way to deal with this pest is the use of pesticides, which are not environmentally friendly and with restricted use in Europe. One alternative for aphid control, is the use of pheromones to disturb aphids behavior. It is known that female aphids produce iridodial compounds, iridodial and nepetalactol in specific stereoisomer-ratios to attract males for mating. However, these compounds are used by aphid predators, lacewings, to locate their prey. In plants, these compounds are present in Catharanthus roseus and Nepeta cataria (catnip), but there is no evidence of their presence in vegetable or cereal crops. The main objective of the project is to generate plants attractive to aphid predators by genetic transfer of the iridoid pathway. These compounds are monoterpenoids and they originate from the cytosolic mevalonate pathway (MAV) or the plastidial methylerythritol-4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. This pathway is involved in the production of defense compounds, hormones and chlorophyll for the plant, as well as a sensor for stress. Considering this, the project also aims to measure the effects of the metabolic perturbation caused by the genetic engineering of the plant and well as to evaluate the plant capacity as a biofactory of these compounds, as well as secaloganin compounds that can be produced some steps ahead of the iridodial compounds in the same monoterpene pathway. The value behind this is that secaloganin can be used as a precursor to produce potent alkaloids for cancer treatment. For the proof of concept we are using the model plant A. thaliana, while for the application of this metabolic pathway could be done in the crop Camelina sativa. Also, for the use of this metabolic pathway in a plant as a biofactory of secaloganin, we are proposing the use of N. Benthamiana.
Effective start/end date2020/02/24 → …

UKÄ subject classification

  • Plant Biotechnology