Spring 2016 Session of the Conference for Student Research
Terpenoids are a diverse class of plant natural products that function as plant hormones, act in plant defense responses and provide structural support to membranes. In addition, terpenoids are commercially valued as essential oils, flavors, fragrances and pharmaceutical drugs. Furano-terpenes isolated from Ipomoea batatas are produced in response to fungal infection. Because of their anti-fungal activities, these terpenes may be particularly useful as new anti-fungal treatments. We are interested in identifying genes involved in the biosynthesis of these compounds. We are currently testing different fungal elicitors to identify compounds that increase production of furano-terpenes in I. batatas. We are using GC-MS analysis to identify these compounds. In addition, we are isolating RNA to conduct RT-PCR analysis to identify candidate biosynthetic genes. Once we have identified biosynthetic genes, we will express these heterologousy to confirm their functions and engineer increased production of furano-terpenes.