Unlike other scientific techniques that can only provide singular and field-limited solutions, "Organellar Engineering" is a nascent field of science that can provide wide-ranging benefits in the areas of food issues, healthy life expectancy, energy, medicine, and drug development. Plant-based photosynthesis-mediated engineering can contribute to an increase in food production to eliminate food shortages caused by exploding population growth, raise life and health expectancy by developing plant-derived pharmaceuticals, and replace petroleum-based chemicals an fuels with renewable substitutes. However, the biotechnology to modify chloroplasts, which are the reaction centers to produce metabolites, and mitochondria, which mainly produce energy-related compounds, is currently unavailable for practical bioengineering. In addition, there is limited information regarding the effect of interorganellar trafficking (metabolite transportation among organelles) on metabolite productivity. In order to maximize the plant’s bioproduction ability, organellar engineering to optimize metabolic pathways and subcellular localization through multiple organelles is necessary. However, to date, this research field has not been created. In fact, a Google search for "organellar engineering" does not yield any results. Thus, organellar engineering is a completely new field of science, and commencing efforts now could lend international traction in the future as research field originating from Japan.
The proposed research agenda is to establish the academic field of organellar engineering and the related foundational technology with the aim of creating a plant-based bioindustry. First, we will use fusion peptides as gene carriers to modify organellar genomes and thus establish a technique for the combined modification of the three types of genomes (nuclei, plastids, and mitochondria) of plants. Additionally, we will set up techniques for transporting proteins and chemical compounds into organelles that do not have their own genomes, such as peroxisomes, glyoxysomes, and vacuoles. Through these techniques, we will gain an understanding of the interaction between organelles, including the organellar subcellular localization, and quantify the effect of interorganellar interactions on metabolite production. In the final stage, organellar engineering will be substantiated by achieving efficient biosynthesis of an envisioned metabolite via designed interorganellar metabolic pathways within the transgenic plant. Upon successful completion of the agenda, the results will serve as the inception of the new academic field of “Organellar Engineering” and the organellar biotechnologies to realize a plant-based bioindustry.
We will use both current and new scientific methods from various science fields to develop new organellar engineering technologies. With the objective of modifying organelles, my group has developed fusion peptides that interact with nucleic acids and proteins, and selectively introduce them to target organelles. Based on the correlation between the structure and function of the fusion peptides, organellar engineering will be established through the quantitative modification of plant organelles and development towards the visualization and quantification of interorganellar metabolism. In order to achieve this goal, the fusion of the following 4 research groups will be effective.
- Fusion Peptide Design Group (polymer chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer structure, polymer physics)
- Organellar Modification Group (plant molecular biology, plant tissue culture, plant breeding)
- Organellar Interaction Group (organellar dynamics, 3D/live bioimaging, electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, computational science)
- Fusion Peptide Utilization Group （microbiology/microalgae biology, bioengineering, bioproduction）