Optimizing plant FMOs for improved plant resistance and biotechnology at Københavns Universitet

Flavin-containing Monoxygenases (FMOs) are enzymes present in all kingdoms of life. As monooxygenases, FMOs typically incorporate oxygen into small molecules, altering their chemical properties such as solubility and bioactivity. Accordingly, FMOs possess huge potential as biocatalysts for a wide range of biotechnological, medical, and agricultural applications. Other labs around the world are optimizing fungal and bacterial FMOs for biotechnology, but what about the unexploited potential of plant FMOs?

To date, only a handful of plant FMOs have been characterized. These characterized FMOs play fundamental roles in hormone metabolism, stress resistance, signalling and defence. It is highly likely that other plant FMOs play equally as important roles in plants, just waiting to be discovered.

For the past year we have focused our attention on different barley FMOs. Already we have identified new compounds and catalytic reactions not seen in barley before, nor any other plant species. We believe these new compounds act as signalling/defense compounds that protect barley against pathogen attack.

Major outstanding questions:

What do other, uncharacterized plant FMOs do?

Can we improve their functionality?

How have FMOs evolved throughout the plant kingdom?

Approaches

This project is highly interdisciplinary, encompassing bioinformatics, molecular biology, protein expression and purification, transient tobacco expression, biochemical assays, metabolomics, evolution and plant stress studies. The question is, what techniques excite you the most? What skills do you want to develop or learn? Due to the rich scope of this project, we will tailor your project to your preferences.

Project highly suitible for ERASMUS and MCSA fellows.

Interested in travelling? This project collaborates with Prof Liz Gillam (optimization of protein functionality) and Prof Ian Godwin (cereal biotechnology) at the University of Queensland, Australia.

Remember that a project is an invitation for dialogue where you agree on the focus of the project. You have the possibility to suggest other problem statements and perspectives besides what is outlined in the project description. Read more about project collaborations in Career guide