Engineering central metabolism in crop species: learning the system

Metab Eng. 2003 Jul;5(3):191-200. doi: 10.1016/s1096-7176(03)00028-4.


Over many centuries much effort has been expended on crop improvement, most recently by use of molecular genetic technologies. Although genome sequence information for crop species is not yet available in the public domain, most of the genes of central metabolism have already been cloned and the corresponding transgenic plants generated. Although these plants have often confirmed the hypotheses based on more indirect methodologies, they have also produced unexpected challenges to the metabolic engineer in outlining the enormous flexibility and complexity inherent in plant metabolism. Intriguingly, comparison of transcript and metabolite levels of the TCA cycle revealed strong correlations in expression levels but little coordination in the levels of metabolic intermediates. These factors explain why many attempts to engineer central metabolism have proven unsuccessful to date and suggest that a greater understanding of the regulatory circuits and networks controlling metabolism is required before engineering can become routine. In this article we intend to illustrate these challenges by reviewing attempts to manipulate the central metabolic pathways of Solanaceae (sps.) as well as demonstrating the role for systems biology approaches in metabolic engineering in crops.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Citric Acid Cycle / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology*
  • Genetic Engineering / methods*
  • Genetic Enhancement / methods
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / growth & development
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism*
  • Protein Engineering / methods
  • Solanaceae / genetics*
  • Solanaceae / metabolism*