• Open Access

Increasing morphinan alkaloid production by over-expressing codeinone reductase in transgenic Papaver somniferum


* Correspondence (fax 61 2 6246 5000; e-mail: philip.larkin@csiro.au)


Only plants of the Papaver genus (poppies) are able to synthesize morphinan alkaloids, and cultivation of P. somniferum, opium poppy, remains critical for the production and supply of morphine, codeine and various semi-synthetic analgesics. Opium poppy was transformed with constitutively expressed cDNA of codeinone reductase (PsCor1.1), the penultimate step in morphine synthesis. Most transgenic lines showed significant increases in capsule alkaloid content in replicated glasshouse and field trials over 4 years. The morphinan alkaloid contents on a dry weight basis were between 15% and 30% greater than those in control high-yielding genotypes and control non-transgenic segregants. Transgenic leaves had approximately 10-fold greater levels of Cor transcript compared with non-transgenic controls. Two cycles of crossing of the best transgenic line into an elite high-morphine genotype resulted in significant increases in morphine and total alkaloids relative to the elite recurrent parent. No significant changes in alkaloid profiles or quantities were observed in leaf, roots, pollen and seed.