Project number 11

Abscisic acid: health effects, biosynthesis and signaling in humans

The sesquiterpene abscisic acid (ABA) is best known as a plant hormone, but this specialized metabolite is also produced by some phytopathogenic fungi, toxoplasma and a wide range of mammalian (including human) cells. ABA from nutritional sources is associated with a protective function in inflammatory diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and colitis . Because of this, ABA can be classified as an active nutraceutical substance. How ABA is synthesized in mammals and the physiological importance of ABA from endogenous biosynthesis or nutritional sources is currently unknown.
This project aims to: 1) Unravel the complete ABA biosynthesis pathway in mammals and reconstitute it in alternative organisms through synthetic biology approaches. 2) Identify ABA-binding proteins with state-of-the-art proteomics methods in order to discover novel ABA receptors. 3) Study ABA-modulated signal transduction cascades in mammalian model cells using transcriptomics and differential proteomics. 4) Determine the physiological role of ABA in inflammation-associated mouse disease models. 5) Generate a pipeline for biofortified (���superfood”) fruits and vegetables with high levels of ABA
There has been limited collaborative research between the two partner labs previous to this project on plant molecules with anti-inflammatory activity. The project targets a 50/50 work distribution between the 2 labs and will unite the expertise in metabolomics, plant hormone signaling and synthetic biology at VIB2/PSB with the expertise in mammalian cell signaling, proteomics and inflammation at VIB1/IRC. The project will also actively involve VIB core facilities, such as the proteomics expertise center.

Keywords
synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, inflammation, *omics, nutraceutical

Supervisors
Rudi Beyaert, VIB Inflammation Research Center, UGent, Gent
Alain Goossens, VIB Dept. of Plant Systems Biology, UGent, Gent