Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is one of the most prominent medicinal species in the Asteraceae family and extracts of feverfew are used to treat various diseases. Parthenolide, the major bioactive compound of feverfew, is a promising anti-cancer drug.
In this thesis, which was part of the EU project TERPMED, all the genes of the parthenolide biosynthetic pathway were identified and an entire functional pathway could be engineered in another plant species.
The results from this project now make the industry-scale production of this compound feasible. In the heterologous host novel parthenolide conjugates were identified with improved water-solubility, which show activity against colon cancer cell. Several additional genes were found to be involved in a side branch of the parthenolide biosynthetic pathway, leading to other, novel, derivatives, providing potential new drug leads.