How a Plant Gene Boosts Healing Compound Production

Jim Crocker
11th April, 2024

How a Plant Gene Boosts Healing Compound Production

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Sichuan University scientists discovered how a plant hormone, MeJA, boosts medicinal compound production in purple coneflower
  • They identified a genetic switch, EpMYB2, that regulates the production of chicoric acid, a key health-promoting compound
  • The study also found that a protein, EpMYC2, activates EpMYB2, forming a module that increases chicoric acid when MeJA is present
Understanding the complex machinery that drives plant metabolism is like unlocking a botanical code that can lead to enhanced medicinal properties in plants. One such plant, the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), is highly regarded for its therapeutic potential, largely due to a compound called chicoric acid. This compound is not only a marker of the plant's quality but also a key ingredient in many health products. Despite knowing how chicoric acid is made within the purple coneflower, scientists at Sichuan University have only recently begun to decipher the regulatory network that controls its production[1]. Chicoric acid is part of a group of compounds that plants produce as a secondary metabolism. These are not directly involved in growth or reproduction but often serve protective roles and have significant health benefits for humans. The production of such compounds can be influenced by various factors, including plant hormones like methyl jasmonate (MeJA). MeJA is known to play a role in plant defense mechanisms, particularly in response to wounds or pathogens[2]. The recent study by researchers at Sichuan University has shed light on a specific component of the purple coneflower's genetic machinery: a transcription factor called EpMYB2. Transcription factors are like molecular switches that can turn genes on or off. The EpMYB2 factor is responsive to MeJA, meaning that when plants are treated with this hormone, EpMYB2 becomes active. What makes EpMYB2 special is its dual role. Not only does it directly regulate the genes involved in making chicoric acid, but it also influences genes in the shikimate pathway, a crucial route in plant metabolism that provides the building blocks for a wide array of secondary metabolites. This discovery implies that EpMYB2 sits at a crossroads of metabolic pathways, coordinating the flow of resources towards the production of chicoric acid. Moreover, the study revealed another piece of the puzzle: a protein called EpMYC2, which can bind to and activate EpMYB2. This interaction forms a module that is involved in the increase of chicoric acid production when MeJA is present. This finding is significant because it links the jasmonate signaling pathway, well-known for its role in plant stress responses and secondary metabolism[3], with the specific biosynthesis of chicoric acid. The research builds on previous knowledge that flavonols, compounds related to chicoric acid, are regulated by light-inducible MYB transcription factors[4]. The study at Sichuan University extends this concept by showing that similar regulatory mechanisms are at play in the biosynthesis of chicoric acid, a compound with substantial health-promoting effects, and that these mechanisms can be influenced by external signals like MeJA. The identification of the EpMYC2-EpMYB2 module is a breakthrough that could lead to practical applications. By understanding how these transcription factors work, scientists could potentially develop new strategies to enhance the production of chicoric acid in purple coneflower plants. This could lead to higher quality herbal products with improved medicinal properties. In conclusion, the study from Sichuan University represents an important step in connecting the dots between plant hormone signaling and the synthesis of valuable secondary metabolites. By uncovering the role of EpMYB2 and its interaction with EpMYC2 in response to MeJA, researchers have provided a foundation for future work that could revolutionize the cultivation and commercial production of Echinacea and other medicinal plants. The implications of these findings are vast, potentially leading to agricultural and pharmaceutical advancements that harness the full therapeutic potential of plants.

GeneticsBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) EpMYB2 positively regulates chicoric acid biosynthesis by activating both primary and specialized metabolic genes in purple coneflower.

Published 10th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) Jasmonic acid/methyl jasmonate accumulate in wounded soybean hypocotyls and modulate wound gene expression.

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Issue: Vol 89, Issue 11, Jun 1992

3) Transcriptional machineries in jasmonate-elicited plant secondary metabolism.

4) The grapevine R2R3-MYB transcription factor VvMYBF1 regulates flavonol synthesis in developing grape berries.

Related Articles

An unhandled error has occurred. Reload 🗙