Terpene indole alkaloids (TIAs) are important plant-produced secondary metabolites for humans, because of their anti-cancer properties. The production of TIAs still fully relies on extraction from medicinal plants like Catharanthus roseus, which only contains extreme low amounts of these compounds and new ways need to be found to efficiently produce these anticancer drugs at low cost.
The common precursor for TIAs is strictosidine and in my PhD project I tried to produce strictosidine in fast-growing tobacco by transferring the genes of the whole biosynthesis pathway into tobacco. At the onset of my project 6 out of the presumed 12 genes of the pathway in C. roseus had not been discovered yet. My thesis tells the story of discovery and characterization of the missing genes and reconstruction of the full strictosidine pathway in tobacco.