Louisiana State University-Shreveport
Probing Biosynthetic Machineries of Anticancer Agents-Producing Plants for Drug Discovery
Urska Cvek, LSU-S
Xiuping Yu, LSUHSC-S
Pilot Project (May 1, 2019 - April 30, 2020)
Plants have been known as sources of immensely diverse specialized metabolites with substantial medicinal properties. Among the unique phytochemicals are monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIAs), which have been used in chemotherapy treatments. While there is an increasing demand for anticancer drugs, their production still depends on isolation of natural product precursors from medicinal plants. Alternative production of these drugs in microbial systems via metabolic engineering requires comprehensive knowledge of biosynthetic and regulatory machineries in plants. Our research focuses on the elucidation of biosynthetic pathways at the molecular and enzymatic level for more efficient production of cytotoxic compounds used in cancer treatments. The variety of biochemical pathways in MIA-producing plants also results in the diversity of plant natural products that is being investigated for discovery of drugs with new mechanisms of action. Currently, we integrate omics and biochemical approaches to understand biosynthesis of camptothecin, a monoterpene indole alkaloid in the medicinal plant Camptotheca acuminata, as well as other potential bioactive compounds with anticancer properties.