Natural Products

activities (pro-angiogenesis and anti-angiogenesis) can be found in the same plant. Only by thorough- ly characterising the entire genome of the plant, as well as isoforms from eight of its constituent parts, was the Lee team able to determine that the aerial parts (eg leaf and flower) contain a higher abun- dance of PPD compared to roots. They identified several key genes, including several seen for the first time, as well as their transcription factor bind- ing sites and other related parts involved in the gin- senosides synthesis pathway. As Yang points out, such information will be

vital to enabling in silico metabolic engineering to predict candidate genes associated with overpro- duction of desired metabolites and thus accelerate overall metabolic engineering processes. “These results provide essential targets to

increase the production of ginsenosides through the latest biotechnological approaches,” he wrote.

Conclusion Far from being a relic of an antiquated past, medic- inal plants and herbal remedies have informed much of modern medicine and could contribute a great deal to sound, science-based solutions of the future. We still have much to learn about the genetic

and epigenetic mechanisms of these potentially health-promoting plants. Luckily, modern sequenc- ing platforms enable us to study the unique struc- tural organisation of genes and the regulatory mechanisms underlying their expression patterns, allowing the generation of catalogues of specialised metabolism in ways unfathomable to the herbalists who first harnessed their healing properties cen- turies ago. As Tessa Moses and Alain Goossens point out in

the Journal of Experimental Botany7, all living plant species in the world together contribute to a greater chemical diversity of bioactive compounds than any man-made chemical library. By returning to our roots via roots, and combin-

ing ancient observations with modern molecular mining, we can herald a new era of healing and drug discovery.


Michelle Vierra is Strategic Marketing Manager of Plant and Animal Sciences at Pacific Biosciences, a Menlo Park company that offers sequencing tech- nologies to help scientists solve genetically com- plex problems. Based on its novel Single Molecule, Real-Time (SMRT®) technology, PacBio products enable de novo genome assembly; full-length tran- script sequencing for a complete view of isoform

Drug Discovery World Spring 2019 57

diversity; targeted sequencing to more comprehen- sively characterise genetic variations; and DNA base modification identification to help charac- terise epigenetic regulation and DNA damage.

Continued from page 54

6 Kim, NH, Jayakodi, M, Lee, SC, Choi, BS, Jang, W, Lee, J, Kim, HH, Waminal, NE, Lakshmanan, M, van Nguyen, B, Lee, YS, Park, HS, Koo, HJ, Park, JY, Perumal, S, Joh, HJ, Lee, H, Kim, J, Kim, IS, Kim, K, Koduru, L, Kang, KB, Sung, SH, Yu, Y, Park, DS, Choi, D, Seo, E, Kim, S, Kim, YC, Hyun, DY, Park, YI, Kim, C, Lee, TH, Kim, HU, Soh, MS, Lee, Y, In, JG, Kim, HS, Kim, YM, Yang, DC, Wing, RA, Lee, DY, Paterson, AH, Yang, TJ. Genome and evolution of the shade-requiring medicinal herb Panax ginseng. Plant Biotechnol (2018) doi: 10.1111/pbi.12926. 7 Moses, T and Goossens, A. Plants for human health: greening biotechnology and synthetic biology. Journal of Experimental Botany (2017) doi: 10.1093/jxb/erx268.

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