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Plant Cell Rep. 2011 May;30(5):689-94. doi: 10.1007/s00299-010-0967-9. Epub 2010 Dec 24.

Metabolic engineering of artemisinin biosynthesis in Artemisia annua L.

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  • 1Key Laboratory of Photosynthesis and Environmental Molecular Physiology, Institute of Botany, The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanxincun 20, Haidian District, Beijing, 100093, China.


Artemisinin, a sesquiterpene lactone isolated from the Chinese medicinal plant Artemisia annua L., is an effective antimalarial agent, especially for multi-drug resistant and cerebral malaria. To date, A. annua is still the only commercial source of artemisinin. The low concentration of artemisinin in A. annua, ranging from 0.01 to 0.8% of the plant dry weight, makes artemisinin relatively expensive and difficult to meet the demand of over 100 million courses of artemisinin-based combinational therapies per year. Since the chemical synthesis of artemisinin is not commercially feasible at present, another promising approach to reduce the price of artemisinin-based antimalarial drugs is metabolic engineering of the plant to obtain a higher content of artemisinin in transgenic plants. In the past decade, we have established an Agrobacterium-mediated transformation system of A. annua, and have successfully transferred a number of genes related to artemisinin biosynthesis into the plant. The various aspects of these efforts are discussed in this review.

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