Medicinal Plant Genomics Resource
High throughput sequencing of genomes and transcriptomes has revolutionized and accelerated the pace and progress of research across the life sciences. In plants, the application of these approaches to model organisms and major agricultural crops (e.g., Arabidopsis, rice, sorghum, maize and poplar) has provided tremendous insight into plant metabolic processes. However, while primary and intermediary metabolism is conserved across the plant kingdom, the specialized secondary metabolic pathways leading to medicinal compounds are not well conserved. Indeed, medicinal compounds are often produced by only a handful of plant genera or species. As a result, progress in understanding and manipulating these taxonomically restricted metabolic pathways, many of which produce compounds of pharmaceutical importance, has not benefited to the same extent from the genomics revolution. A major collaborative research project underway in the lab will address this gap in our species-specific knowledge of plant metabolism by determining the DNA sequence and expression of the transcriptomes and the associated metabolomes of 14 key medicinal plant species, thereby allowing genome-enabled identification of candidate pathway genes in these organisms through correlation of gene expression with the production of specific pharmaceutically relevant metabolites. The resulting datasets will provide an unparalleled resource for the research community working at the interface of plant metabolism and human health.