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Logo of bmcpsBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Plant Biology
 
BMC Plant Biol. 2012; 12: 84.
Published online Jun 8, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2229-12-84
PMCID: PMC3423072
The organ-specific expression of terpene synthase genes contributes to the terpene hydrocarbon composition of chamomile essential oils
Sandra Irmisch,1,3 Sandra T Krause,1 Grit Kunert,2 Jonathan Gershenzon,2 Jörg Degenhardt,1 and Tobias G Köllnercorresponding author1,3
1Institute of Pharmacy, Martin Luther University, Hoher Weg 8, Halle 06120, Germany
2Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Strasse 8, Jena 07745, Germany
3Current address: Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Hans-Knöll-Strasse 8, Jena 07745, Germany
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
Sandra Irmisch: sirmisch/at/ice.mpg.de; Sandra T Krause: sandra.krause/at/pharmazie.uni-halle.de; Grit Kunert: gkunert/at/ice.mpg.de; Jonathan Gershenzon: gershenzon/at/ice.mpg.de; Jörg Degenhardt: joerg.degenhardt/at/pharmazie.uni-halle.de; Tobias G Köllner: koellner/at/ice.mpg.de
Received April 23, 2012; Accepted June 1, 2012.
Abstract
Background
The essential oil of chamomile, one of the oldest and agronomically most important medicinal plant species in Europe, has significant antiphlogistic, spasmolytic and antimicrobial activities. It is rich in chamazulene, a pharmaceutically active compound spontaneously formed during steam distillation from the sesquiterpene lactone matricine. Chamomile oil also contains sesquiterpene alcohols and hydrocarbons which are produced by the action of terpene synthases (TPS), the key enzymes in constructing terpene carbon skeletons.
Results
Here, we present the identification and characterization of five TPS enzymes contributing to terpene biosynthesis in chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Four of these enzymes were exclusively expressed in above-ground organs and produced the common terpene hydrocarbons (−)-(E)-β-caryophyllene (MrTPS1), (+)-germacrene A (MrTPS3), (E)-β-ocimene (MrTPS4) and (−)-germacrene D (MrTPS5). A fifth TPS, the multiproduct enzyme MrTPS2, was mainly expressed in roots and formed several Asteraceae-specific tricyclic sesquiterpenes with (−)-α-isocomene being the major product. The TPS transcript accumulation patterns in different organs of chamomile were consistent with the abundance of the corresponding TPS products isolated from these organs suggesting that the spatial regulation of TPS gene expression qualitatively contribute to terpene composition.
Conclusions
The terpene synthases characterized in this study are involved in the organ-specific formation of essential oils in chamomile. While the products of MrTPS1, MrTPS2, MrTPS4 and MrTPS5 accumulate in the oils without further chemical alterations, (+)-germacrene A produced by MrTPS3 accumulates only in trace amounts, indicating that it is converted into another compound like matricine. Thus, MrTPS3, but also the other TPS genes, are good markers for further breeding of chamomile cultivars rich in pharmaceutically active essential oils.
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