Harnessing plant trichome biochemistry for the production of useful compounds

Authors

  • Anthony L. Schilmiller,

    1. Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1319, USA, and
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  • Robert L. Last,

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1319, USA, and
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  • Eran Pichersky

    1. Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1048, USA
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*(fax +1 517 353 9334; e-mail lastr@msu.edu).

Summary

Plant trichomes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and cellular composition. Some types, commonly called glandular trichomes, produce large amounts of specialized (secondary) metabolites of diverse classes. Trichomes are implicated in a variety of adaptive processes, including defense against herbivores and micro-organisms as well as in ion homeostasis. Because trichomes protrude from the epidermis and can often be easily separated from it and harvested, the mRNAs, proteins and small molecules that they contain are unusually accessible to analysis. This property makes them excellent experimental systems for identification of the enzymes and pathways responsible for the synthesis of the specialized metabolites found in these structures and sometimes elsewhere in the plant. We review the literature on the biochemistry of trichomes and consider the attributes that might make them highly useful targets for plant metabolic engineering.

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