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P³roLucas - adding value from lupine-based alkaloids

The lupine is a plant genus that is widespread throughout the world, and its seeds reveal great potential to become the next superfood. Besides the high nutrient content of the seeds and the nitrogen fixation with the help of root bacteria, it is above all the natural resistance to predators that makes the lupine so attractive. Mainly, this resistance is due to the production of quinolizidine alkaloids, which, however, have to be extracted before consumption by livestock or humans due to their toxicity. The cost of this extraction has so far hindered the establishment of lupin as a widely used plant protein source.

In the P³roLucas project, alkaloids are to be extracted as added value in addition to proteins. Lupin seeds contain valuable compounds for chemical catalysts or even pharmaceuticals, which are to be isolated in the course of the project. These molecules will subsequently serve as raw material by-products to make the cultivation of lupins more attractive. In addition, the isolation of individual alkaloids will make it possible to create entire alkaloid profiles. Using multivariate analysis, an insight into the fascinating and so far largely unexplored world of lupine secondary metabolism is thus possible. A focus will be on unknown biosynthetic pathways and the influence of environmental conditions on alkaloid composition.

This work is part of the P³roLucas project, which brings together scientists from different disciplines to study the lupine. Under the project coordination of Dr. Marco Löhrer (RWTH Aachen), lupins are cultivated and researched by cooperation partners at the Research Centre Jülich, the University of Bonn and the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. The fields of biology, chemistry, bioeconomics and bioinformatics are represented. A connection to the economy is guaranteed by the involvement of the seed producer Saatgut Steinach and regional agriculturalists. Together, this project will aim to establish the lupine as a green alternative to established crops.

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