Metabolic engineering in plants involves the modification of endogenous pathways to decrease or increase flux towards desired compounds or introduction of completely novel pathways for the production of new compounds. Using sophisticated molecular tools, the detailed knowledge of the pathway of interest, and state of the art gene transfer technology we have embarked on various programs to engineer complex metabolic pathways such as the polyamine and terpenoid indole alkaloid pathways and the CO2 fixation in crops. The polyamine biosynthetic pathway serves as a useful and relevant model to understand key factors controlling expression of (trans-) genes involved in complex metabolic pathways in plants. Polyamines play key roles in a multitude of developmental, physiological and biochemical processes and they also act as anti-oxidants in human diet. Lessons learned from engineering of the polyamine pathway in plants can now be used to enhance the nutritional quality of food and feed crops through genetic engineering.
A major focus of the metabolic engineering group lies on the development of different approaches to increase the biomass and productivity of crops through improved uptake of nutrients and CO2.