The Center for Plant Biotechnology

The research activities of CPB have been focused on the in vitro cultures, with particular emphasis on hairy roots cultures as natural product producing systems, namely essential oils. In addition, chemical and molecular characterization of endemic plant species as well as the study of secretory structures, viewing a better knowledge, valuation and conservation of the national plant biodiversity resources, with potential economic interest is another topic on which PBRG has been particularly concerned.

1) Phytochemical and Molecular Analysis - Evaluation of the correlation between the volatiles composition and molecular markers and, in addition, the molecular characterization of terpene synthase genes aiming at clarifying how the production of terpenes, namely monoterpenes, is regulated. Identification of interesting genotypes, particularly those that produce essential oils containing bioactive compounds.

2) In vitro Culture - Increase and/or modify the volatiles production by hairy root cultures and micropropagation, by manipulation of the culture medium and of the photoperiod conditions, different nitrogen sources and ratios, addition of precursors or elicitors. On the hairy root cultures, induction of regenerants, culturing in a bioreactor and in a two-phase system and biotransformation will also be tested. Understand the hairy root culture behaviour and reveal some advantages of this in vitro system for the production of the different types of secondary metabolites that can be found in plant volatiles.

3) Biology of Plant Secretion - Survey of the different types of secretory structures in the vegetative and reproductive organs of medicinal and aromatic plants. Morpho-anatomical characterization of these glands, ultrastructural study of their cells and histochemical identification of the main classes of compounds present in the secreted material. The overall integration of these data enhances our understanding of cell secretory processes and of physiological and ecological functions of plant secretions.

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