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Metab Eng. 2007 Jan;9(1):1-7. Epub 2006 Aug 18.

Production of soybean isoflavone genistein in non-legume plants via genetically modified secondary metabolism pathway.

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  • 1National Laboratory of Protein Engineering and Plant Genetic Engineering, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China.


Genetic modification of secondary metabolic pathways to produce desirable natural products is an attractive approach in plant biotechnology. In our study, we attempted to produce a typical soybean isoflavone genistein, a well-known health-promoting metabolite, in non-legume plants via genetic engineering. Both overexpression and antisense suppression strategies were used to manipulate the expression of several genes encoding key enzymes in the flavonoids/isoflavonoids pathway in transgenic tobacco, lettuce, and petunia. Introducing soybean isoflavone synthase (IFS) into these plants, which naturally do not produce isoflavonoids due to a lack of this leguminous enzyme, resulted in genistein biosynthesis in tobacco petals, petunia leaves and petals, and lettuce leaves. In tobacco, when flavanone 3-hydroxylase (F3H) expression was suppressed by its antisense gene while soybean IFS was overexpressed at the same time, genistein yield increased prominently. In addition, overexpression of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) also led to an enhanced genistein production in tobacco petals and lettuce leaves in the presence of IFS than in the plants that overexpressed only IFS.

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