Coffee is one of the most important commodities for tropical countries and one of the most consumed beverages in the world, which Brazil occupies a prominent position as the largest producer and exporter. Diterpenes are important components on plant development processes and protection against insects, pathogens and other environmental stresses. Many of them are also used by pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, due to their nutraceutical properties. More specifically, cafestol (CAF) and kahweol (KAH) are diterpenic compounds exclusively produce by the specialized metabolism of the genus Coffea. Recently, in a biochemical analysis of diterpenes, our research group detected, for the first time, KAH in coffee roots, in addition to its well-known occurence in fruits. The presence of these diterpenes in fruits and roots may indicate a possible relationship of these compounds with plant defense mechanisms and the sensorial characteristics of the beverage (aroma and flavor). Despite their importance, studies that depict the genetic and biochemical mechanisms involved in CAF and KAH biosynthesis are still incipient, which limits our ability to understand the ecological, agronomic and industrial importance of these compounds. It has also recently been demonstrated in plants that the application of hexanoic acid can increase the production of mevalonate, a precursor compound of CAF and KAH. This project aims to integrate functional genomics and biochemical analyses to identify the metabolic network involved in the CAF and KAH biosynthesis route in coffee trees. We will also use the exogenous application of hexanoic acid to modulate the transcriptional profile of genes involved in the diterpene biosynthesis pathway in leaves and roots of arabica coffee, and investigate the impact of this modulation on CAF and KAH biosynthesis. The results of this study will contribute to the understanding of the molecular bases and biological functions derived from specialized metabolism of coffee, and provide the fundamental knowledge for the production of plants with desirable contents of diterpenes, superior quality of drink and control of diseases without sources of resistance in coffee trees.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: