Project leader Cathie Martin reveals her dream: plant scientists can contribute innovative ways of looking and understanding the benefits of food in our diets
CRA-ACM, Acireale CT, Sicily, Italy
In the ATHENA project the CRA-ACM was involved in the production of purified anthocyanins from Citrus wastes. An experimental procedure, based on enzymatic treatment and further adsorption on polymeric resins, allowed to obtain an highly concentrated extract rich in anthocyanins from blood orange processing wastes. Moreover a purified fraction of cyanidin-3-glucoside from the raw extract was obtained and employed in the studies on the effects of purified compounds compared to their effects in whole food contexts. Furthermore, verdello lemon (a typical production predominantly performed in the eastern Sicily, at the mountainsides of the Mount Etna, rich in flavanones and other antioxidants because of the particular cultivation technique, called 'forcing') processing wastes were used to develop a method for the recovery of eriocitrin and other flavanones. Finally the expertise of CRA-ACM have been used to produce a standardized new phytoextract in powder form, obtained by properly mixing anthocyanins and other polyphenols from red orange (cv. Moro) processing wastes and eriocitrin and other flavanones from lemon peel (cv. Femminello, verdello blooming). For this new phytoextract an application for patent is going on. This should be conveniently employed for nutra-pharmaceutical purposes.
DLO, Wageningen, The Netherlands:
The task of P5 within ATHENA was to investigate the potential of transferring the entire anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway from plants into a suitable in vitro production organism. Yeast was chosen and an initial selection of 12 genes was made to perform the work. The goal was to have a production organism which could be exploited to produce relatively pure anthocyanins and to be used as a starting point for further engineering to produce strains each of which accumulates one of a range of differently decorated anthocyanins. This was an ambitious goal and while we did not fully succeed during the project we came a long way and we have learned a great deal about the challenges along the way. Furthermore, thanks to the materials generated and knowledge gained within the project the work has been able to be continued in collaboration with another group and very recent reports suggest that the final goal of an anthocyanin-producing yeast has indeed been achieved. Within ATHENA high yielding strains accumulating flavonoids such as naringenin and dihydrokaempferol have been generated. This was achieved using 6 exogenous plant genes together with a number of additional engineering steps required to maximise flux along the pathway and avoid branches / substrate loss. Through this project we have also benefited greatly and broadened our perspectives through the highly multi-disciplinary nature of the consortium. This has led to a significant number of joint scientific publications as well as several more popular articles. This work is now also a standard component of our conference presentations and for lectures to undergraduates.