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Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.) is a medicinal and industrial plant from the Asteraceae family that produces a variety of sesquiterpene lactones (STLs), most importantly bitter guaianolides: lactucin, lactucopicrin and 8-deoxylactucin as well as their modified forms such as oxalates. These compounds have medicinal properties; however, they also hamper the extraction of inulin – a very important food industry product from chicory roots. The first step in guaianolide biosynthesis is catalyzed by germacrene A synthase (GAS) which in chicory exists in two isoforms – GAS long (encoded by CiGASlo) and GAS short (encoded by CiGASsh). AmiRNA silencing was used to obtain plants with reduced GAS gene expression and level of downstream metabolites, guaianolide-15-oxalates, as the major STLs in chicory. This approach could be beneficial for engineering new chicory varieties with varying STL content, and especially varieties with reduced bitter compounds more suitable for inulin production.
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