Terpenoid indole alkaloid biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus: effects and prospects of environmental factors in metabolic engineering

Yongliang Liu, Barunava Patra, Sanjay Kumar Singh, Priyanka Paul, Yan Zhou, Yongqing Li, Ying Wang, Sitakanta Pattanaik, Ling Yuan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Plants synthesize a vast array of specialized metabolites that primarily contribute to their defense and survival under adverse conditions. Many of the specialized metabolites have therapeutic values as drugs. Biosynthesis of specialized metabolites is affected by environmental factors including light, temperature, drought, salinity, and nutrients, as well as pathogens and insects. These environmental factors trigger a myriad of changes in gene expression at the transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels. The dynamic changes in gene expression are mediated by several regulatory proteins that perceive and transduce the signals, leading to up- or down-regulation of the metabolic pathways. Exploring the environmental effects and related signal cascades is a strategy in metabolic engineering to produce valuable specialized metabolites. However, mechanistic studies on environmental factors affecting specialized metabolism are limited. The medicinal plant Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar periwinkle) is an important source of bioactive terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs), including the anticancer therapeutics vinblastine and vincristine. The emerging picture shows that various environmental factors significantly alter TIA accumulation by affecting the expression of regulatory and enzyme-encoding genes in the pathway. Compared to our understanding of the TIA pathway in response to the phytohormone jasmonate, the impacts of environmental factors on TIA biosynthesis are insufficiently studied and discussed. This review thus focuses on these aspects and discusses possible strategies for metabolic engineering of TIA biosynthesis. PURPOSE OF WORK: Catharanthus roseus is a rich source of bioactive terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs). The objective of this work is to present a comprehensive account of the influence of various biotic and abiotic factors on TIA biosynthesis and to discuss possible strategies to enhance TIA production through metabolic engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2085-2103
Number of pages19
JournalBiotechnology Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).


  • Biosynthetic Pathways/genetics
  • Catharanthus/genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant/genetics
  • Metabolic Engineering/methods
  • Plants, Medicinal/genetics
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids/metabolism


Dive into the research topics of 'Terpenoid indole alkaloid biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus: effects and prospects of environmental factors in metabolic engineering'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this