Universiteit Leiden

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Plant Sciences

Bioactive Molecules in Plant Sciences

Plant Sciences' contribution to the Bioactive Molecules research theme is to identify new plant bioactive molecules, and unravel their mechanisms of action in plant development or health, and the regulatory networks and (bio)synthetic pathways required for their production.

As photosynthetic, autotrophic organisms producing an enormous variety of natural ingredients, plants are one of the richest sources for bioactive molecules. Plant-originated bioactive molecules are being used in different fields of life sciences, such as pharmaceutical (e.g. anticancer, anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial compounds) and agricultural sciences (e.g. hormone-like compounds that trigger specific developmental- or defense responses in plants).

The first aim of our phytochemistry research lies in discovering leads for bioactive compounds. This is not only based on conventional approaches, focussing on the chemistry itself, but also on investigating the plant systems where the compounds are derived from. In particular, a fundamental question in plant physiology is how plants realize the biosynthesis of a wide-range of metabolites, even though many of them are not soluble in water? This has led to the discovery of a new group of Deep Eutectic Solvents based on common plant compounds, so-called natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES), that are currently being applied as green extraction solvents for cosmetics, drug delivery systems for pharmaceuticals or as food additives.

In collaboration with other IBL clusters and institutes, the identified and produced bioactive molecules of plants are further developed into pharmaceuticals (e.g. lead compounds or drug delivery systems), agricultural products (e.g. hormones, herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides), functional foods or cosmetics (e.g. extraction and emulsifying reagents).

In addition to the identification of the molecules in plants, an important part of the research in the Plant Science cluster aims at unravelling their mechanisms of action, and the regulatory networks and (bio)synthetic pathways required for their production.


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