Subcellular transport of metabolites

A plant does not only have to deal with the integration of processes between different organs (e.g. between leaf, root and flower), but also with integration of processes that take place within different compartments of the cell. For instance, secondary metabolites are make in different subcellular compartments, so the cell has to deal with several transport issues: how do the enzymes get to the right compartment, how are intermediates transported between compartments (e.g. from plastid to ER, from ER to peroxisome) and how are compounds transported over membranes (e.g. from cytosol to vacuole or from cytosol to the extracellular space). Very little is known about specific proteins involved in the transport of metabolites between compartments and over membranes.

Our approach:

Metabolites: In many plant species, expression of terpene biosynthesis genes coincides with high expression of lipid transfer protein genes (LTP’s). Therefore we are studying the effect of LTP overexpression and LTP mutants on terpene production in plants, while in a complementary approach we change terpene synthesis in plants and monitor how that affects LTP expression. To study the transport over membranes we are analyzing mutants in ABC transporter proteins, while the putative role of vesicles in metabolite transport are investigated in mutants impaired in vesicle transport (e.g. specific SNARE mutants).  Candidate genes in terpene biosynthesis or transport are fused to GFP to determine their sub-cellular location. This allows us to map all the steps in the pathway over the different cellular compartments.     

Related PhD projects:

  • EPS: The role of transporter proteins in mono-/sesqui-terpene transport in plants. Phd Hieng Ting Ming
  • Smart Cell: Synthesis, transport and accumulation of monoterpenes in plants PhD Lemeng Dong.
  • TerpMed: Synthesis, transport and accumulation of sesquiterpene lactones in plants. PhD Liu Chin.