CPSC scientists in SCIENCE – University of Copenhagen

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25 November 2016

CPSC scientists in SCIENCE

New paper

CPSC scientists contributes to a groundbreaking study in SCIENCE detailing the until-now elusive mechanism that enables plants to produce fast, tight and targeted production of chemical defense compounds. SCIENCE commentary calls the study a watershed.

For decades scientists have hypothesized on the existence of so-called metabolons in plant defense systems. They are multi-enzyme complexes that come together dynamically upon an environmental signal and produce a desired compound that will fend off attackers of the plant.   

While circumstantial evidence of metabolons have been gathered en masse over the last three decades, none before have been able to prove their actual existence. Now, with the combination of cross-disciplinary expertise, a well-studied model system and the exploration of new technology, the proof could finally be obtained.

First author Tomas Laursen explains: “Plant membrane structures are notoriously difficult to study. It is an extremely complex system and we have been on the hunt for these metabolons for ages. The breakthrough came when we employed a novel technology for extracting the proteins without prior treatment of detergent. This allowed us to isolate the intact complexes, which otherwise dissociates.”

Tomas Laursen is Center for Synbio PhD-alumni, now working as a postdoc at the Joint Bioenergy Institute at UC Berkeley in the US. Among his co-authors are several scientists from Copenhagen Plant Science Centre, Center for Synthetic Biology and Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at UCPH.

Prominent acclaim
The article is accompanied by a two-page introduction in which Science has asked two experts to comment on the paper. Here, no doubt is left as to the importance of what the researchers have achieved: a watershed, they say.

Read the perspective by experts Mehran Dastmalchi and Peter J. Facchini here.

Synbio Center has extensive coverage of the groundbreaking paper here.

Read the full paper in Science.