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Keywords:

  • biological activity;
  • genetic transformation;
  • human health;
  • phytoalexins;
  • plant–microbe interactions;
  • resveratrol;
  • stilbenes;
  • stilbene synthase

Summary

The grapevine phytoalexin resveratrol, the synthesis of which is achieved by stilbene synthase (STS), displays a wide range of biological effects. Most interest has centred, in recent years, on STS gene transfer experiments from grapevine to the genome of numerous plants. This work presents a comprehensive review on plant molecular engineering with the STS gene. Gene and promoter options are discussed, namely the different promoters used to drive the transgene, as well as the enhancer elements and/or heterologous promoters used to improve transcriptional activity in the transformed lines. Factors modifying transgene expression and epigenetic modifications, for instance transgene copy number, are also presented. Resveratrol synthesis in plants, together with that of its glucoside as a result of STS expression, is described, as is the incidence of these compounds on plant metabolism and development. The ectopic production of resveratrol can lead to broad-spectrum resistance against fungi in transgenic lines, and to the enhancement of the antioxidant activities of several fruits, highlighting the potential role of this compound in health promotion and plant disease control.