Biotechnology Advances 32 (2014) 1051–1052

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Guest editorial

From plants to pharmacy shelf

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in their report “Global Agriculture towards 2050” recently estimated the world population to grow by over a third by the mid-21st century (FAO, 2009). This simply suggests that humankind will face multiple challenges as: i) more food (and fiber) to feed the growing population; ii) more feed stocks for a potentially huge bioenergy market and iii) more therapeutic molecules (i.e. of natural origin) to treat human diseases and disorders have to be produced. The continuously increasing demand for therapeutic molecules along with dramatic reductions in biodiversity are driving efforts to develop alternative routes for the sustainable production of those molecules. Biotechnology eventually possesses an immense potential for a sustainable supply of both plant biomass and value-added molecules. In addition, biotechnological production of high-value metabolites and therapeutic proteins by plant-derived bioprocesses is the only economically feasible and sustainable way of producing highvalue metabolites from rare and/or threatened plant species (Georgiev et al., 2013; Georgiev and Weber, 2014). This special issue aims at giving insight into various aspects of biotechnology (and related research) addressed at the International Conference on Natural Products Utilization: from Plants to Pharmacy Shelf (, held in Bansko, Bulgaria, in November 2013. World-renowned experts and professionals from ca. 40 different countries discussed the latest developments on the field with special emphasis on the emerging methods for treating/preventing malignancies, for sustainable production of natural products and for modern analytical platforms, incl. -omics technologies. In total, 12 review papers were selected, after a thorough peer-review process, to be included in this special issue. The growing importance of plant-derived molecules in preventing and treating human ailments and disorders is exemplified by a set of comprehensive reviews on curcumin (the yellow pigment of Curcuma longa L.; Prasad et al., 2014), verbascoside (=acteoside; Alipieva et al., 2014) and riproximin (recently detected cytotoxic type II ribosome inactivating protein with high selectivity for certain tumor cell lines; Adwan et al., 2014). Further, the enormous potential of resurrection plant species – tolerating extreme desiccation of their vegetative tissues during harsh drought stress – to accumulate particular secondary metabolites with abundant antibacterial, anticancer, antifungal, and antiviral properties for the development of novel drug substances is highlighted by Gechev et al. (2014). Finally, technological challenges in lead/drug discovery from natural sources (plants, animals and microorganisms) are thoroughly summarized and the recent developments in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), mass spectrometry (MS) coupled with advanced separation techniques (LC and GC), high throughput screening and structure–activity-based virtual screening are discussed by Berkov et al. (2014). 0734-9750/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.

The next set of excellent reviews focuses on the emerging developments in the treatment and prevention of malignancy formation with plant-derived compounds (Baird et al., 2014; Cerella et al., 2014) and their interference with the epigenetic machinery (Schnekenburger et al., 2014). Cerella et al. (2014) provides an overview of molecular cell death specificities and how compounds of natural origins, with or without synthetic modifications, target unique thanatotic molecular constellations towards personalized cancer treatment. The transcription factor Nrf2 (NF-E2 p45-related factor 2) and its negative regulator Keap1 (Kelchlike ECH associated protein 1) control the expression of nearly 500 genes with diverse cytoprotective functions. Baird et al. (2014) summarizes the discovery of the sulforaphane (sulfur-containing molecule, widely spread in cruciferous vegetables) as a potent inducer of Nrf2. The development of a qFRET (quantitative Förster Resonance Energy Transfer)-based methodology combined with multiphoton FLIM (fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy) by the group of Dr. Dinkova-Kostova, aiming to study the interactions between Keap1 and Nrf2 in single live cells, is nicely covered as well. The last set of comprehensive reviews deals with biotechnological aspects and advances in flavonoid glycosylation (Xiao et al., 2014), taxane biosynthesis by Taxus cell cultures (incl. transcriptomic profiling of key genes in the taxol biosynthetic pathway; Cusido et al., 2014), utilization of the potential of transformed root culture (=hairy roots) and engineering plants and relevant organ culture for targeted molecule production (Ludwig-Müller et al., 2014), and microorganism coculture approaches (incl. analytical approaches for studying these interaction phenomena) aiming to increase the diversity of metabolites (Bertrand et al., 2014). Biosynthesis of natural compounds is a highly complex process and the molecular mechanisms of regulation are, in particular, challenging tasks toward developing economically feasible bioprocesses. Recent progress in -omics fields (transcriptomics and metabolomics in particular; Cusido et al., 2014; Bertrand et al., 2014) and emerging biotechnology approaches (Ludwig-Müller et al., 2014; Xiao et al., 2014) are likely to accelerate this process. I am thankful to Editor-in-Chief Prof. Dr. M. Moo-Young (University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) for his continuous support and wise advices during the editorial process. Reviewers' significant efforts are greatly appreciated. References Adwan H, Bayer H, Pervaiz A, Sagini M, Berger MR. Riproximin is a recently discovered type II ribosome inactivating protein with potential for treating cancer. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1077–90. Alipieva K, Korkina L, Erdogan Orhan I, Georgiev MI. Verbascoside — a review of its occurrence, (bio)synthesis and pharmacological significance. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32: 1065–76.


Guest editorial

Baird L, Swift S, Lleres D, Dinkova-Kostova AT. Monitoring Keap1–Nrf2 interactions in single live cells. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1133–44. Berkov S, Mutafova B, Christen P. Molecular biodiversity and recent analytical developments: a marriage of convenience. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1102–10. Bertrand S, Bohni N, Schnee S, Schumpp O, Gindro K, Wolfender J-L. Metabolite induction via microorganism co-culture: a potential way to enhance chemical diversity for drug discovery. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1180–204. Cerella C, Teiten M-H, Radogna F, Dicato M, Diederich M. From nature to bedside: prosurvival and cell death mechanisms as therapeutic targets in cancer treatment. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1111–22. Cusido RM, Onrubia M, Sabater-Jara AB, Moyano E, Bonfill M, Goossens A, et al. A rational approach to improving the biotechnological production of taxanes in plant cell cultures of Taxus spp. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1157–67. FAO. Global agriculture towards 2050., 2009. [Retrieved July, 2014]. Gechev TS, Hille J, Woerdenbag HJ, Benina M, Mehterov N, Toneva V, et al. Natural products from resurrection plants: potential for medical applications. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1091–101. Georgiev MI, Weber J. Bioreactors for plant cells: hardware configuration and internal environment optimization as tools for wider commercialization. Biotechnol Lett 2014; 36:1359–67. Georgiev MI, Eibl R, Zhong JJ. Hosting the plant cells in vitro: recent trends in bioreactors. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 2013;97:3787–800.

Ludwig-Müller J, Jahn L, Lippert A, Püschel J, Walter A. Improvement of hairy root cultures and plants by changing biosynthetic pathways leading to pharmaceutical metabolites: strategies and applications. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1168–79. Prasad S, Gupta SC, Tyagi AK, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin, a component of golden spice: from bedside to bench and bank. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1053–64. Schnekenburger M, Dicato M, Diederich M. Plant-derived epigenetic modulators for cancer treatment and prevention. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1123–32. Xiao J, Muzashvili TS, Georgiev MI. Advances in the biotechnological glycosylation of valuable flavonoids. Biotechnol Adv 2014;32:1145–56.

Milen I. Georgiev Guest Editor Laboratory of Applied Biotechnologies, The Stephan Angeloff Institute of Microbiology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Plovdiv, Bulgaria Corresponding guest editor. Tel./fax: +359 32 642 430. E-mail address: [email protected]