Show Details

Plant Fragrance Switch

September 5, 2018

Coaxing plants into producing some fresh-smelling medicinals.

Transcript

Natalia Dudareva has uncovered the switches that control terpenoid production in plants. (Purdue University)

Natalia Dudareva has uncovered the switches that control terpenoid production in plants. (Purdue University)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Life-saving compounds from plants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The fresh scent of lemons or newly cut grass comes from terpenes—chemicals plants produce mostly to repel plant-eating insects. Purdue biochemist Natalia Dudareva explains that terpenes are the active compounds in many important drugs, like the cancer-fighting medicine Taxol. But plants can be frustratingly frugal when it comes to producing them.

NATALIA DUDAREVA (Purdue):

If we want to get a lot of important compounds for pharmaceuticals, we need to have relatively high level of these compounds in plants. But plants produce it very often in very small amount.

HIRSHON:

Now, in the journal Nature Plants, Dudareva and her colleagues report finding the genetic switch and other mechanisms that turn terpene production on and off. The work could help researchers discover life-saving compounds, and lead to new ways to breed or engineer plants to produce enough of them. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon