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Planta Med. 2018 Aug;84(12-13):834-838. doi: 10.1055/a-0631-3876. Epub 2018 May 24.

Ethnobotany and Medicinal Plant Biotechnology: From Tradition to Modern Aspects of Drug Development.

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TU Dortmund University, Biochemical and Chemical Engineering, Technical Biochemistry, Dortmund, Germany.


Secondary natural products from plants are important drug leads for the development of new drug candidates for rational clinical therapy and exhibit a variety of biological activities in experimental pharmacology and serve as structural template in medicinal chemistry. The exploration of plants and discovery of natural compounds based on ethnopharmacology in combination with high sophisticated analytics is still today an important drug discovery to characterize and validate potential leads. Due to structural complexity, low abundance in biological material, and high costs in chemical synthesis, alternative ways in production like plant cell cultures, heterologous biosynthesis, and synthetic biotechnology are applied. The basis for any biotechnological process is deep knowledge in genetic regulation of pathways and protein expression with regard to todays "omics" technologies. The high number genetic techniques allowed the implementation of combinatorial biosynthesis and wide genome sequencing. Consequently, genetics allowed functional expression of biosynthetic cascades from plants and to reconstitute low-performing pathways in more productive heterologous microorganisms. Thus, de novo biosynthesis in heterologous hosts requires fundamental understanding of pathway reconstruction and multitude of genes in a foreign organism. Here, actual concepts and strategies are discussed for pathway reconstruction and genome sequencing techniques cloning tools to bridge the gap between ethnopharmaceutical drug discovery to industrial biotechnology.

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