Optimisation of terpenoid production in heterologous production platforms

Monoterpenoids are produced naturally by plants and some of these, such as perillic acid, have been shown to be a suitable feedstock as a renewable natural resource for the production of terephtalic acid.

Terephtalic acid is a commodity chemical used to make clothing and plastic bottles and is produced in large volumes of >30 million tons per year, but is currently produced from non-renewable resources (fossil oil).

In this project the knowledge base will be developed for a renewable source of the terephtalic acid precursor perillic acid in a biorefinery crop by engineering the production and storage of perillic acid in plants. Hereto, using the fast track transient expression in the model plant production platform Nicotiana benthamiana, new genes will be characterized and metabolic engineering strategies will be tested.

These strategies will be supported and optimised by a modelling/wet work cycle. A computational model of terpene biosynthesis will be parameterised using data from earlier work and the literature. Different strategies will be tested by manipulation of input variables in silico and comparing calculated effects with manipulation of these pathway inputs in planta.

The results will be used to refine the model and for development of new hypotheses. Combined, this will allow for a rapid evaluation of a whole series of metabolic engineering strategies from which the most effective approach will be selected for two proof of concept terpene production platforms (chicory and algae), aimed at production of perillic acid.