Biosynthesis of sesquiterpene lactones in chicory and application of the enzymes involved

M.C.R. Franssen, J.W. de Kraker, M. Schurink, H.J. Bouwmeester, Æ. de Groot

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractAcademic


The edible sprouts of chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) are used as a vegetable and are well-known for their slightly bitter taste, which originates from sesquiterpene lactones (e. g., lactucin). Especially the roots contain high concentrations of these bitter principles, which makes them unsuitable for use as cattle feed. However, we have demonstrated that the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of the sesquiterpene lactones are still present and active in the roots after the harvest of the sprouts. The first steps in the biosynthetic route have been elucidated by us. One of the enzymes involved, the (+)-germacrene A hydroxylase, appears to possess a broad substrate specificity coupled to a high regioselectivity, making this enzyme an attractive catalyst for the hydroxylation of terpenes in flavour and fragrance industry. An especially interesting reaction is the one-step conversion of (+)-valencene into nootkatone4, a much sought flavour component of grapefruit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-512
JournalChemicke Listy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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