Unveiling How Fenugreek Produces Its Unique Compounds

Greg Howard
23rd April, 2024

Unveiling How Fenugreek Produces Its Unique Compounds

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at Tarbiat Modares University studied how to boost diosgenin, a cancer-fighting compound, in fenugreek plants
  • They found that treating fenugreek with methyl jasmonate increased the activity of genes involved in making diosgenin
  • The study suggests that this treatment could lead to more efficient production of diosgenin for pharmaceutical use
In the realm of medicinal plants, Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) holds a significant place due to its therapeutic properties, particularly an active substance called diosgenin, which has been recognized for its anticancer effects. A recent study conducted by researchers at Tarbiat Modares University delved into the molecular intricacies of diosgenin biosynthesis in fenugreek, aiming to enhance the production of this valuable compound using methyl jasmonate, a known elicitor that stimulates plant defense mechanisms and secondary metabolite production[1]. The study's primary objective was to unravel the gene expression modifications that occur when fenugreek plants are treated with methyl jasmonate. The researchers collected RNA-sequencing datasets from fenugreek plants at various time intervals after treatment, ranging from 6 to 120 hours. This comprehensive analysis was pivotal in identifying the upregulation of key genes involved in the diosgenin biosynthetic pathway. To gain a deeper understanding of the biosynthesis process, the team focused on the initial stages, which involve the enzyme Squalene synthase (SQS). SQS is crucial as it catalyzes the first committed step in creating diosgenin. Alongside SQS, other enzymes such as Squalene Epoxidase (SEP) and Cycloartenol Synthase (CAS) also showed increased activity following the methyl jasmonate treatment. These findings suggest that the application of the elicitor triggers a cascade of gene activations leading to enhanced diosgenin production. The researchers employed bioinformatics tools to perform gene ontology enrichment and pathway analyses, which corroborated the involvement of these specific genes in the biosynthesis pathway. The bioinformatics analysis was not an isolated endeavor; it was complemented by experimental validation across three different fenugreek populations exposed to methyl jasmonate. The experiments demonstrated a consistent pattern: an initial upregulation of genes like SQS and SEP, with a peak at approximately 72 hours post-treatment. Subsequent upregulation of additional genes, such as Δ24, indicated a dynamic regulation within the biosynthetic pathway. Real-time PCR, a technique used to amplify and simultaneously quantify target DNA molecules, confirmed the upregulation of SQS and SEP, aligning with the bioinformatics predictions. This methodological triangulation strengthened the study's findings, providing a robust and comprehensive understanding of the molecular response in fenugreek to methyl jasmonate elicitation. Moreover, the study identified candidate genes, including Δ24 and SMT1, that seem to play roles in directing the metabolic flux towards diosgenin biosynthesis. This discovery is particularly significant as it could lead to targeted approaches in manipulating the fenugreek metabolome to maximize diosgenin yield. The integration of transcriptomics data, bioinformatics analysis, and experimental validation offers a promising strategy for enhancing the production of bioactive compounds in medicinal plants. This approach not only confirms the bioinformatics findings but also provides practical insights into optimizing the elicitation process for increased diosgenin production. The assembled transcripts and gene expression profiles generated from this research have been made publicly available in the Zenodo open repository, facilitating further research and collaboration in the field. This study builds on previous efforts, such as the Trinity method[2], which was pivotal in de novo transcriptome assembly, particularly in organisms lacking a reference genome. Although fenugreek has a reference genome, the techniques and principles applied in the Trinity method are relevant for understanding the complexities of transcriptome data and reconstructing full-length transcripts, which are essential for accurate gene expression profiling. In conclusion, the research from Tarbiat Modares University represents a significant advancement in the field of plant molecular biology and biotechnology. By elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind diosgenin accumulation in fenugreek and demonstrating the efficacy of methyl jasmonate as an elicitor, the study paves the way for developing new strategies to enhance the production of this anticancer compound, with potential implications for agricultural practices and pharmaceutical applications.

BiotechBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Transcriptomic data reveals the dynamics of terpenoids biosynthetic pathway of fenugreek

Published 22nd April, 2024


Related Studies

2) Full-length transcriptome assembly from RNA-Seq data without a reference genome.


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