Flavonoids and phenolic acids are widely distributed in higher plants and form part of the human diet. Recent interest in these substances has strongly been stimulated by the potential health benefits arising from the antioxidant activity of these polyphenolic compounds. Although the protective effect of flavonoids against cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer is widely accepted, little is known about the different pharmacokinetic properties of individual groups of flavonoids. The aim of the proposal is to develop strategies to create tomato plants with elevated contents of flavonoids, to evaluate the biological properties of individual members, and to transfer the knowledge to additional crops including cereals. To achieve this goal, an interdisciplinary team has been put together with outstanding expertise in plant molecular physiology, genetics, biochemistry, nutritional and analytical biology, complemented by an SME as an active participant and responsible for the exploitation of the results obtained.
Plants produce an immense range of natural metabolites, many of which are of medical value. These metabolites exhibit antioxidative activities, due to the scavenging of reactive oxygen and reactive nitrogen species and may serve as antioxidants in plants themselves or in plant-derived components of the human diet, without being toxic or dangerous. The major objectives of the proposal are
- to decipher the regulation of flavonoid biosynthesis,
- the production of engineered plants tailored for the synthesis of phytoprotectants
- the development of molecular and biochemical tools to assist plant breeding and to allow risk assessments of the engineered plants by carefully following metabolic changes in pathways not directly targeted by the genetic manipulation.
To reach these goals, existing concepts will be tested by altering expression of known genes (cardinal gene approach), Arabidopsis will be utilised to isolate novel genes (black box approach), and genetic resources of different tomato accessions will be exploited by transcriptional and metabolic profiling.