An engineered combinatorial module of transcription factors boosts production of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids in Catharanthus roseus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


To fend off microbial pathogens and herbivores, plants have evolved a wide range of defense strategies such as physical barriers, or the production of anti-digestive proteins or bioactive specialized metabolites. Accumulation of the latter compounds is often regulated by transcriptional activation of the biosynthesis pathway genes by the phytohormone jasmonate-isoleucine. Here, we used our recently developed flower petal transformation method in the medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus to shed light on the complex regulatory mechanisms steering the jasmonate-modulated biosynthesis of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs), to which the anti-cancer compounds vinblastine and vincristine belong. By combinatorial overexpression of the transcriptional activators BIS1, ORCA3 and MYC2a, we provide an unprecedented insight into the modular transcriptional control of MIA biosynthesis. Furthermore, we show that the expression of an engineered de-repressed MYC2a triggers a tremendous reprogramming of the MIA pathway, finally leading to massively increased accumulation of at least 23 MIAs. The current study unveils an innovative approach for future metabolic engineering efforts for the production of valuable bioactive plant compounds in non-model plants.


  • Fabian Schweizer
  • Maite Colinas
  • Jacob Pollier
  • Alex Van Moerkercke
  • Robin Vanden Bossche
  • Rebecca de Clercq
  • Alain Goossens
External organisations
  • Ghent University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Ecology
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-162
Number of pages13
JournalMetabolic Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul
Publication categoryResearch
Externally publishedYes