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1.  The isolation and mapping of a novel hydroxycinnamoyltransferase in the globe artichoke chlorogenic acid pathway 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:30.
The leaves of globe artichoke and cultivated cardoon (Cynara cardunculus L.) have significant pharmaceutical properties, which mainly result from their high content of polyphenolic compounds such as monocaffeoylquinic and dicaffeoylquinic acid (DCQ), and a range of flavonoid compounds.
Hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HQT) encoding genes have been isolated from both globe artichoke and cultivated cardoon (GenBank accessions DQ915589 and DQ915590, respectively) using CODEHOP and PCR-RACE. A phylogenetic analysis revealed that their sequences belong to one of the major acyltransferase groups (anthranilate N-hydroxycinnamoyl/benzoyltransferase). The heterologous expression of globe artichoke HQT in E. coli showed that this enzyme can catalyze the esterification of quinic acid with caffeoyl-CoA or p-coumaroyl-CoA to generate, respectively, chlorogenic acid (CGA) and p-coumaroyl quinate. Real time PCR experiments demonstrated an increase in the expression level of HQT in UV-C treated leaves, and established a correlation between the synthesis of phenolic acids and protection against damage due to abiotic stress. The HQT gene, together with a gene encoding hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HCT) previously isolated from globe artichoke, have been incorporated within the developing globe artichoke linkage maps.
A novel acyltransferase involved in the biosynthesis of CGA in globe artichoke has been isolated, characterized and mapped. This is a good basis for our effort to understand the genetic basis of phenylpropanoid (PP) biosynthesis in C. cardunculus.
PMCID: PMC2664813  PMID: 19292932
2.  Genome-Wide Identification of BAHD Acyltransferases and In vivo Characterization of HQT-like Enzymes Involved in Caffeoylquinic Acid Synthesis in Globe Artichoke 
Globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus L. var. scolymus) is a rich source of compounds promoting human health (phytonutrients), among them caffeoylquinic acids (CQAs), mainly represented by chlorogenic acid (CGA), and dicaffeoylquinic acids (diCQAs). The enzymes involved in their biosynthesis belong to the large family of BAHD acyltransferases. Following a survey of the globe artichoke genome, we identified 69 BAHD proteins carrying the catalytic site (HXXXD). Their phylogenetic analysis together with another 43 proteins, from 21 species, representative of the BAHD family, highlighted their grouping in seven major clades. Nine globe artichoke acyltransferases clustered in a sub-group of Clade V, with 3 belonging to hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HQT) and 2 to hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT) like proteins. We focused our attention on the former, HQT1, HQT2, and HQT3, as they are known to play a key role in CGA biosynthesis. The expression of genes coding for the three HQTs and correlation of expression with the CQA content is reported for different globe artichoke tissues. For the first time in the globe artichoke, we developed and applied the virus-induced gene silencing approach with the goal of assessing in vivo the effect of HQT1 silencing, which resulted in a marked reduction of both CGA and diCQAs. On the other hand, when the role of the three HQTs was assessed in leaves of Nicotiana benthamiana through their transient overexpression, significant increases in mono- and diCQAs content were observed. Using transient GFP fusion proteins expressed in N. benthamiana leaves we also established the sub-cellular localization of these three enzymes.
PMCID: PMC5033976  PMID: 27721818
Cynara cardunculus; caffeoylquinic acids; BAHD acyltransferases; functional characterization; VIGS
3.  Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray diffraction analysis of a hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HCT) from Coffea canephora involved in chlorogenic acid biosynthesis 
A hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase involved in chlorogenic acid biosynthesis in C. canephora was crystallized using the vapour-diffusion method. A diffraction data set was collected to 3.0 Å resolution on the microfocus beamline (ID23-2) at ESRF and a structure solution was obtained using molecular replacement.
Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are a group of soluble phenolic compounds that are produced by a variety of plants, including Coffea canephora (robusta coffee). The last step in CGA biosynthesis is generally catalysed by a specific hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HQT), but it can also be catalysed by the more widely distributed hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase (HCT). Here, the cloning and overexpression of HCT from C. canephora in Escherichia coli as well as its purification and crystallization are presented. Crystals were obtained by the sitting-drop technique at 293 K and X-ray diffraction data were collected on the microfocus beamline ID23-2 at the ESRF. The HCT crystals diffracted to better than 3.0 Å resolution, belonged to space group P42212 with unit-cell parameters a = b = 116.1, c = 158.9 Å and contained two molecules in the asymmetric unit. The structure was solved by molecular replacement and is currently under refinement. Such structural data are needed to decipher the molecular basis of the substrate specifities of this key enzyme, which belongs to the large plant acyl-CoA-dependent BAHD acyltransferase superfamily.
PMCID: PMC3388932  PMID: 22750875
Coffea canephora; phenylpropanoid-biosynthesis pathway; chlorogenic acids; plant acyl-CoA-dependent acyltransferase superfamily; hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferase; molecular replacement
4.  Production of hydroxycinnamoyl-shikimates and chlorogenic acid in Escherichia coli: production of hydroxycinnamic acid conjugates 
Hydroxycinnamates (HCs) are mainly produced in plants. Caffeic acid (CA), p-coumaric acid (PA), ferulic acid (FA) and sinapic acid (SA) are members of the HC family. The consumption of HC by human might prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. The solubility of HCs is increased through thioester conjugation to various compounds such as quinic acid, shikimic acid, malic acid, anthranilic acid, and glycerol. Although hydroxycinnamate conjugates can be obtained from diverse plant sources such as coffee, tomato, potato, apple, and sweet potato, some parts of the world have limited availability to these compounds. Thus, there is growing interest in producing HC conjugates as nutraceutical supplements.
Hydroxycinnamoyl transferases (HCTs) including hydroxycinnamate-CoA shikimate transferase (HST) and hydroxycinnamate-CoA quinate transferase (HQT) were co-expressed with 4-coumarateCoA:ligase (4CL) in Escherichia coli cultured in media supplemented with HCs. Two hydroxycinnamoyl conjugates, p-coumaroyl shikimates and chlorogenic acid, were thereby synthesized. Total 29.1 mg/L of four different p-coumaroyl shikimates (3-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 4-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,4-di-p-coumaroyl shikimate, 3,5-di-p-coumaroyl shikimate, and 4,5-di-p-coumaroyl shikimate) was obtained and 16 mg/L of chlorogenic acid was synthesized in the wild type E. coli strain. To increase the concentration of endogenous acceptor substrates such as shikimate and quinate, the shikimate pathway in E. coli was engineered. A E. coli aroL and aroK gene were mutated and the resulting mutants were used for the production of p-coumaroyl shikimate. An E. coli aroD mutant was used for the production of chlorogenic acid. We also optimized the vector and cell concentration optimization.
To produce p-coumaroyl-shikimates and chlorogenic acid in E. coli, several E. coli mutants (an aroD mutant for chlorogenic acid production; an aroL, aroK, and aroKL mutant for p-coumaroyl-shikimates production) were made and each mutant was tested using an optimized construct. Using this strategy, we produced 235 mg/L of p-coumaroyl-shikimates and 450 mg/L of chlorogenic acid.
PMCID: PMC3621256  PMID: 23383718
Chlorogenic acid; Hydroxycinnamic acid; Hydroxycinnamate-CoA quinate transferase; Hydroxycinnamate-CoA shikimate transferase
5.  Population structure of Cynara cardunculus complex and the origin of the conspecific crops artichoke and cardoon 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(5):855-865.
Background and Aims
Globe artichoke and leafy cardoon, two crops within the same species Cynara cardunculus, are traditionally cultivated in the Mediterranean region and play a significant role in the agricultural economy of this area. The two cultigens have different reproductive systems: artichoke is generally vegetatively propagated, while leafy cardoon is seed propagated. The domestication events underlying the origin of both artichoke and cultivated cardoon from their wild relative and the area of occurrence are not yet fully understood. The aim of this study was to investigate population structure in wild cardoon, globe artichoke and leafy cardoon material and infer domestication events.
Thirty-five microsatellite (simple sequence repeat) markers, distributed in the C. cardunculus genome, and a large geographical and numerical sampling in southern Europe and North Africa were used to assess population structure and diversity.
Key Results
The results suggest the presence of two distinct domestication events for artichoke and leafy cardoon, and also suggest a new possible scenario, with western wild cardoon having originated from cultivated cardoon escaped from cultivation. Evidence was found for a demographic bottleneck in the past history of globe artichoke.
The results shed new light on the relationships between the three taxa of C. cardunculus and highlight relevant aspects on the evolution of domestication of two crops with a different reproductive system within the same species. It is proposed that the probable centre of origin of artichoke is located in southern Italy, probably Sicily.
PMCID: PMC3747803  PMID: 23877076
Cynara cardunculus; SSR markers; population structure; multiple domestication events; clonal propagation; bottleneck; reproductive system
6.  Transcriptome Analysis of Buds and Leaves Using 454 Pyrosequencing to Discover Genes Associated with the Biosynthesis of Active Ingredients in Lonicera japonica Thunb. 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62922.
Lonicera japonica Thunb. is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-carcinogenic, and antiviral pharmacological properties. The major active secondary metabolites of this plant are chlorogenic acid (CGA) and luteoloside. While the biosynthetic pathways of these metabolites are relatively well known, the genetic information available for this species, especially the biosynthetic pathways of its active ingredients, is limited.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We obtained one million reads (average length of 400 bp) in a whole sequence run using a Roche/454 GS FLX titanium platform. Altogether, 85.69% of the unigenes covering the entire life cycle of the plant were annotated and 325 unigenes were assigned to secondary metabolic pathways. Moreover, 2039 unigenes were predicted as transcription factors. Nearly all of the possible enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of CGA and luteoloside were discovered in L. japonica. Three hydroxycinnamoyl transferase genes, including two hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase genes and one hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT) gene featuring high similarity to known genes from other species, were cloned. The HCT gene was discovered for the first time in L. japonica. In addition, 188 candidate cytochrome P450 unigenes and 245 glycosyltransferase unigenes were found in the expressed sequence tag (EST) dataset.
This study provides a high quality EST database for L. japonica by 454 pyrosequencing. Based on the EST annotation, a set of putative genes involved in CGA and luteoloside biosynthetic pathways were discovered. The database serves as an important source of public information on genetic markers, gene expression, genomics, and functional genomics in L. japonica.
PMCID: PMC3636143  PMID: 23638167
7.  First detailed karyo-morphological analysis and molecular cytological study of leafy cardoon and globe artichoke, two multi-use Asteraceae crops 
Comparative Cytogenetics  2016;10(3):447-463.
Traditionally globe artichoke and leafy cardoon have been cultivated for use as vegetables but these crops are now finding multiple new roles in applications ranging from paper production to cheese preparation and biofuel use, with interest in their functional food potential. So far, their chromosome complements have been poorly investigated and a well-defined karyotype was not available. In this paper, a detailed karyo-morphological analysis and molecular cytogenetic studies were conducted on globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus Linnaeus, 1753 var. scolymus Fiori, 1904) and leafy cardoon (Cynara cardunculus Linneaus, 1753 var. altilis De Candolle, 1838). Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization In Suspension (FISHIS) was applied to nuclei suspensions as a fast method for screening of labelling probes, before metaphase spread hybridization. Classic Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH) on slide, using repetitive telomeric and ribosomal sequences and Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs) oligonucleotide as probes, identified homologous chromosome relationships and allowed development of molecular karyotypes for both varieties. The close phylogenetic relationship between globe artichoke and cardoon was supported by the very similar karyotypes but clear chromosomal structural variation was detected. In the light of the recent release of the globe artichoke genome sequencing, these results are relevant for future anchoring of the pseudomolecule sequence assemblies to specific chromosomes. In addition, the DNA content of the two crops has been determined by flow cytometry and a fast method for standard FISH on slide and methodological improvements for nuclei isolation are described.
PMCID: PMC5088355  PMID: 27830052
Cynara; SSR simple sequence repeats; repetitive sequences; flow cytometry; FISHIS; FISH
8.  Genetic mapping and identification of QTL for earliness in the globe artichoke/cultivated cardoon complex 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:252.
The Asteraceae species Cynara cardunculus (2n = 2x = 34) includes the two fully cross-compatible domesticated taxa globe artichoke (var. scolymus L.) and cultivated cardoon (var. altilis DC). As both are out-pollinators and suffer from marked inbreeding depression, linkage analysis has focussed on the use of a two way pseudo-test cross approach.
A set of 172 microsatellite (SSR) loci derived from expressed sequence tag DNA sequence were integrated into the reference C. cardunculus genetic maps, based on segregation among the F1 progeny of a cross between a globe artichoke and a cultivated cardoon. The resulting maps each detected 17 major linkage groups, corresponding to the species’ haploid chromosome number. A consensus map based on 66 co-dominant shared loci (64 SSRs and two SNPs) assembled 694 loci, with a mean inter-marker spacing of 2.5 cM. When the maps were used to elucidate the pattern of inheritance of head production earliness, a key commercial trait, seven regions were shown to harbour relevant quantitative trait loci (QTL). Together, these QTL accounted for up to 74% of the overall phenotypic variance.
The newly developed consensus as well as the parental genetic maps can accelerate the process of tagging and eventually isolating the genes underlying earliness in both the domesticated C. cardunculus forms. The largest single effect mapped to the same linkage group in each parental maps, and explained about one half of the phenotypic variance, thus representing a good candidate for marker assisted selection.
PMCID: PMC3434057  PMID: 22621324
Cynara cardunculus; Linkage map; Microsatellite; QTL; Earliness
9.  Identification and Characterization of Five BAHD Acyltransferases Involved in Hydroxycinnamoyl Ester Metabolism in Chicory 
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) accumulates caffeic acid esters with important significance for human health. In this study, we aim at a better understanding of the biochemical pathway of these bioactive compounds. Detailed metabolic analysis reveals that C. intybus predominantly accumulates caftaric and chicoric acids in leaves, whereas isochlorogenic acid (3,5-diCQA) was almost exclusively accumulated in roots. Chlorogenic acid (3-CQA) was equally distributed in all organs. Interestingly, distribution of the four compounds was related to leaf age. Induction with methyljasmonate (MeJA) of root cell suspension cultures results in an increase of 3-CQA and 3,5-diCQA contents. Expressed sequence tag libraries were screened using members of the BAHD family identified in Arabidopsis and tobacco as baits. The full-length cDNAs of five genes were isolated. Predicted amino acid sequence analyses revealed typical features of BAHD family members. Biochemical characterization of the recombinant proteins expressed in Escherichia coli showed that two genes encode HCTs (hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferases, HCT1 and HCT2) whereas, three genes encode HQTs (hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:quinate hydroxycinnamoyltransferases, HQT1, HQT2, and HQT3). These results totally agreed with the phylogenetic analysis done with the predicted amino acid sequences. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis of gene expression indicated that HQT3, HCT1, and HCT2 might be more directly associated with CQA accumulation in cell culture in response to MeJA elicitation. Transient expression of HCT1 and HQT1 in tobacco resulted in a higher production of 3-CQA. All together these data confirm the involvement of functionally redundant genes in 3-CQA and related compound synthesis in the Asteraceae family.
PMCID: PMC4893494  PMID: 27375627
caffeic acid esters; BAHD family; acyltransferases; chlorogenic acid; chicory (Cichorium intybus); functionally redundant genes
10.  Transcriptome Analysis Reveals the Mechanism Underlying the Production of a High Quantity of Chlorogenic Acid in Young Leaves of Lonicera macranthoides Hand.-Mazz 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(9):e0137212.
Lonicera macranthoides Hand.-Mazz (L. macranthoides) is a medicinal herb that is widely distributed in southern China. The biosynthetic and metabolic pathways for a core secondary metabolite in L. macranthoides, chlorogenic acid (CGA), have been elucidated in many species. However, the mechanisms of CGA biosynthesis and the related gene regulatory network in L. macranthoides are still not well understood. In this study, CGA content was quantified by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and CGA levels differed significantly among three tissues; specifically, the CGA content in young leaves (YL) was greater than that in young stems (YS), which was greater than that in mature flowers (MF). Transcriptome analysis of L. macranthoides yielded a total of 53,533,014 clean reads (average length 90 bp) and 76,453 unigenes (average length 703 bp). A total of 3,767 unigenes were involved in biosynthesis pathways of secondary metabolites. Of these unigenes, 80 were possibly related to CGA biosynthesis. Furthermore, differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were screened in different tissues including YL, MF and YS. In these tissues, 24 DEGs were found to be associated with CGA biosynthesis, including six phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) genes, six 4-coumarate coenzyme A ligase (4CL) genes, four cinnamate 4-Hydroxylase (C4H) genes, seven hydroxycinnamoyl transferase/hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA quinate transferase HCT/HQT genes and one coumarate 3-hydroxylase (C3H) gene.These results further the understanding of CGA biosynthesis and the related regulatory network in L. macranthoides.
PMCID: PMC4575056  PMID: 26381882
11.  Silencing an N-Acyltransferase-Like Involved in Lignin Biosynthesis in Nicotiana attenuata Dramatically Alters Herbivory-Induced Phenolamide Metabolism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62336.
In a transcriptomic screen of Manduca sexta-induced N-acyltransferases in leaves of Nicotiana attenuata, we identified an N-acyltransferase gene sharing a high similarity with the tobacco lignin-biosynthetic hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate/quinate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT) gene whose expression is controlled by MYB8, a transcription factor that regulates the production of phenylpropanoid polyamine conjugates (phenolamides, PAs). To evaluate the involvement of this HCT-like gene in lignin production as well as the resulting crosstalk with PA metabolism during insect herbivory, we transiently silenced (by VIGs) the expression of this gene and performed non-targeted (UHPLC-ESI/TOF-MS) metabolomics analyses. In agreement with a conserved function of N. attenuata HCT-like in lignin biogenesis, HCT-silenced plants developed weak, soft stems with greatly reduced lignin contents. Metabolic profiling demonstrated large shifts (up to 12% deregulation in total extracted ions in insect-attacked leaves) due to a large diversion of activated coumaric acid units into the production of developmentally and herbivory-induced coumaroyl-containing PAs (N′,N′′-dicoumaroylspermidine, N′,N′′-coumaroylputrescine, etc) and to minor increases in the most abundant free phenolics (chlorogenic and cryptochlorogenic acids), all without altering the production of well characterized herbivory-responsive caffeoyl- and feruloyl-based putrescine and spermidine PAs. These data are consistent with a strong metabolic tension, exacerbated during herbivory, over the allocation of coumaroyl-CoA units among lignin and unusual coumaroyl-containing PAs, and rule out a role for HCT-LIKE in tuning the herbivory-induced accumulation of other PAs. Additionally, these results are consistent with a role for lignification as an induced anti-herbivore defense.
PMCID: PMC3660383  PMID: 23704878
12.  Leaf polyphenol profile and SSR-based fingerprinting of new segregant Cynara cardunculus genotypes 
The dietary value of many plant polyphenols lies in the protection given against degenerative pathologies. Their in planta role is associated with the host's defense response against biotic and abiotic stress. The polyphenol content of a given plant tissue is strongly influenced by the growing environment, but is also genetically determined. Plants belonging to the Cynara cardunculus species (globe artichoke and the cultivated and wild cardoon) accumulate substantial quantities of polyphenols mainly mono and di-caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) in their foliage. Transgressive segregation for CQA content in an F1 population bred from a cross between a globe artichoke and a cultivated cardoon led to the selection of eight segregants which accumulated more CQA in their leaves than did those of either of their parental genotypes. The selections were grown over two seasons to assess their polyphenol profile (CQAs, apigenin and luteolin derivatives and narirutin), and were also fingerprinted using a set of 217 microsatellite markers. The growing environment exerted a strong effect on polyphenol content, but two of the selections were able to accumulate up to an order of magnitude more CQA than either parent in both growing seasons. Since the species is readily vegetatively propagable, such genotypes can be straightforwardly exploited as a source of pharmaceutically valuable compounds, while their SSR-based fingerprinting will allow the genetic identity of clonally propagated material to be easily verified.
PMCID: PMC4300902  PMID: 25653660
Cynara cardunculus; genotype; growing season; SSRs analysis; caffeoylquinic acids; flavones
13.  Antioxidant Properties of Seeds from Lines of Artichoke, Cultivated Cardoon and Wild Cardoon 
Antioxidants  2013;2(2):52-61.
The artichoke (Cynara cardunculus L. subsp. scolymus L.), the cultivated cardoon (Cynara cardunculus var. altilis DC.) and the wild cardoon (Cynara cardunculus var. sylvestris L.) are species widely distributed in the Mediterranean area. The aim of this research was to evaluate the antioxidant properties of seeds from lines of artichoke and cultivated and wild cardoon in both aqueous-organic extracts and their residues by FRAP (Ferric Reducing Antioxidant Power) and TEAC (Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity) evaluations. Both artichoke and cardoon seeds are a good source of antioxidants. Among artichoke seeds, hydrolysable polyphenols contribution to antioxidant properties ranged from 41% to 78% for FRAP values and from 17% to 37% for TEAC values. No difference between cultivated and wild cardoon in antioxidant properties are reported. Our results could provide information about the potential industrial use and application of artichoke and/or cardoon seeds.
PMCID: PMC4665403  PMID: 26787623
Cynara cardunculus; seeds; aqueous-organic extract; residue; FRAP; TEAC
14.  The genome sequence of the outbreeding globe artichoke constructed de novo incorporating a phase-aware low-pass sequencing strategy of F1 progeny 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:19427.
Globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) is an out-crossing, perennial, multi-use crop species that is grown worldwide and belongs to the Compositae, one of the most successful Angiosperm families. We describe the first genome sequence of globe artichoke. The assembly, comprising of 13,588 scaffolds covering 725 of the 1,084 Mb genome, was generated using ~133-fold Illumina sequencing data and encodes 26,889 predicted genes. Re-sequencing (30×) of globe artichoke and cultivated cardoon (C. cardunculus var. altilis) parental genotypes and low-coverage (0.5 to 1×) genotyping-by-sequencing of 163 F1 individuals resulted in 73% of the assembled genome being anchored in 2,178 genetic bins ordered along 17 chromosomal pseudomolecules. This was achieved using a novel pipeline, SOILoCo (Scaffold Ordering by Imputation with Low Coverage), to detect heterozygous regions and assign parental haplotypes with low sequencing read depth and of unknown phase. SOILoCo provides a powerful tool for de novo genome analysis of outcrossing species. Our data will enable genome-scale analyses of evolutionary processes among crops, weeds, and wild species within and beyond the Compositae, and will facilitate the identification of economically important genes from related species.
PMCID: PMC4726258  PMID: 26786968
15.  Stimulatory Effects of Acibenzolar-S-Methyl on Chlorogenic Acids Biosynthesis in Centella asiatica Cells 
Centella asiatica is a perrenial herb that grows in tropical regions with numerous medicinal properties mostly attributed to the presence of pentacyclic triterpenoids. Interestingly, this plant also possess a significant amount of phenylpropanoid-derived chlorogenic acids (CGAs) that have recently been reported to confer neuroprotective properties. In a biotechnological attempt to increase the biosynthesis of CGA-derivatives in cultured Centella cells, acibenzolar-S-methyl was applied as a xenobiotic inducer in combination with quinic acid and shikimic acid as precursor molecules. Applying a semi-targeted metabolomics-based approach, time and concentration studies were undertaken to evaluate the effect of the manipulation on cellular metabolism leading to CGA production. Phytochemical extracts were prepared using methanol and analyzed using a UHPLC-qTOF-MS platform. Data was processed and analyzed using multivariate data models. A total of four CGA-derivatives, annotated as trans-5-feruloylquinic acid, 3,5 di-caffeoylquinic acid, 3,5-O-dicaffeoyl-4-O-malonylquinic acid (irbic acid) and 3-caffeoyl, 5-feruloylquinic acid, were found to be upregulated by the acibenzolar-S-methyl treatment. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report on the induction of CGA derivatives in this species. Contrary to expectations, the effects of precursor molecules on the levels of the CGAs were insignificant. However, a total of 16 metabolites, including CGA derivatives, were up-regulated by precursor treatment. Therefore, this study shows potential to biotechnologically manipulate C. asiatica cells to increase the production of these health beneficial CGAs.
PMCID: PMC5040108  PMID: 27733862
acibenzolar-S-methyl (ASM); Centella asiatica; chlorogenic acids; elicitation; quinic acid; shikimic acid
16.  RAD tag sequencing as a source of SNP markers in Cynara cardunculus L 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:3.
The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus L. var. scolymus) genome is relatively poorly explored, especially compared to those of the other major Asteraceae crops sunflower and lettuce. No SNP markers are in the public domain. We have combined the recently developed restriction-site associated DNA (RAD) approach with the Illumina DNA sequencing platform to effect the rapid and mass discovery of SNP markers for C. cardunculus.
RAD tags were sequenced from the genomic DNA of three C. cardunculus mapping population parents, generating 9.7 million reads, corresponding to ~1 Gbp of sequence. An assembly based on paired ends produced ~6.0 Mbp of genomic sequence, separated into ~19,000 contigs (mean length 312 bp), of which ~21% were fragments of putative coding sequence. The shared sequences allowed for the discovery of ~34,000 SNPs and nearly 800 indels, equivalent to a SNP frequency of 5.6 per 1,000 nt, and an indel frequency of 0.2 per 1,000 nt. A sample of heterozygous SNP loci was mapped by CAPS assays and this exercise provided validation of our mining criteria. The repetitive fraction of the genome had a high representation of retrotransposon sequence, followed by simple repeats, AT-low complexity regions and mobile DNA elements. The genomic k-mers distribution and CpG rate of C. cardunculus, compared with data derived from three whole genome-sequenced dicots species, provided a further evidence of the random representation of the C. cardunculus genome generated by RAD sampling.
The RAD tag sequencing approach is a cost-effective and rapid method to develop SNP markers in a highly heterozygous species. Our approach permitted to generate a large and robust SNP datasets by the adoption of optimized filtering criteria.
PMCID: PMC3269995  PMID: 22214349
17.  Analysis of Phenolic Acids of Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) Responding to Salt-Stress by Liquid Chromatography/Tandem Mass Spectrometry 
The Scientific World Journal  2014;2014:568043.
Plant phenolics can have applications in pharmaceutical and other industries. To identify and quantify the phenolic compounds in Helianthus tuberosus leaves, qualitative analysis was performed by a reversed phase high-performance liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS) and quantitative analysis by HPLC. Ten chlorogenic acids (CGAs) were identified (3-o-caffeoylquinic acid, two isomers of caffeoylquinic acid, caffeic acid, p-coumaroyl-quinic acid, feruloylquinic acid, 3,4-dicaffeoyquinic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 1,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid) by comparing their retention times, UV-Vis absorption spectra, and MS/MS spectra with standards. In addition, four other phenolic compounds, including caffeoyl glucopyranose, isorhamnetin glucoside, kaempferol glucuronide, and kaempferol-3-o-glucoside, were tentatively identified in Helianthus tuberosus leaves for the first time. The 3-o-caffeoylquinic acid (7.752 mg/g DW), 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (5.633 mg/g DW), and 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (4.900 mg/g DW) were the major phenolic compounds in leaves of Helianthus tuberosus cultivar NanYu in maturity. The variations in phenolic concentrations and proportions in Helianthus tuberosus leaves were influenced by genotype and plant growth stage. Cultivar NanYu had the highest concentration of phenolic compounds, in particular 3-o-caffeoylquinic acid and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid compared with the other genotypes (wild accession and QingYu). Considering various growth stages, the concentration of total phenolics in cultivar NanYu was higher at flowering stage (5.270 mg/g DW) than at budding and tuber swelling stages. Cultivar NanYu of Helianthus tuberosus is a potential source of natural phenolics that may play an important role in the development of pharmaceuticals.
PMCID: PMC4181500  PMID: 25302328
18.  A Genome-Wide Survey of the Microsatellite Content of the Globe Artichoke Genome and the Development of a Web-Based Database 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(9):e0162841.
The recently acquired genome sequence of globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) has been used to catalog the genome’s content of simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. More than 177,000 perfect SSRs were revealed, equivalent to an overall density across the genome of 244.5 SSRs/Mbp, but some 224,000 imperfect SSRs were also identified. About 21% of these SSRs were complex (two stretches of repeats separated by <100 nt). Some 73% of the SSRs were composed of dinucleotide motifs. The SSRs were categorized for the numbers of repeats present, their overall length and were allocated to their linkage group. A total of 4,761 perfect and 6,583 imperfect SSRs were present in 3,781 genes (14.11% of the total), corresponding to an overall density across the gene space of 32,5 and 44,9 SSRs/Mbp for perfect and imperfect motifs, respectively. A putative function has been assigned, using the gene ontology approach, to the set of genes harboring at least one SSR. The same search parameters were applied to reveal the SSR content of 14 other plant species for which genome sequence is available. Certain species-specific SSR motifs were identified, along with a hexa-nucleotide motif shared only with the other two Compositae species (sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and horseweed (Conyza canadensis)) included in the study. Finally, a database, called “Cynara cardunculus MicroSatellite DataBase” (CyMSatDB) was developed to provide a searchable interface to the SSR data. CyMSatDB facilitates the retrieval of SSR markers, as well as suggested forward and reverse primers, on the basis of genomic location, genomic vs genic context, perfect vs imperfect repeat, motif type, motif sequence and repeat number. The SSR markers were validated via an in silico based PCR analysis adopting two available assembled transcriptomes, derived from contrasting globe artichoke accessions, as templates.
PMCID: PMC5029897  PMID: 27648830
19.  Ontology and diversity of transcript-associated microsatellites mined from a globe artichoke EST database 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:454.
The globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus L.) is a significant crop in the Mediterranean basin. Despite its commercial importance and its both dietary and pharmaceutical value, knowledge of its genetics and genomics remains scant. Microsatellite markers have become a key tool in genetic and genomic analysis, and we have exploited recently acquired EST (expressed sequence tag) sequence data (Composite Genome Project - CGP) to develop an extensive set of microsatellite markers.
A unigene assembly was created from over 36,000 globe artichoke EST sequences, containing 6,621 contigs and 12,434 singletons. Over 12,000 of these unigenes were functionally assigned on the basis of homology with Arabidopsis thaliana reference proteins. A total of 4,219 perfect repeats, located within 3,308 unigenes was identified and the gene ontology (GO) analysis highlighted some GO term's enrichments among different classes of microsatellites with respect to their position. Sufficient flanking sequence was available to enable the design of primers to amplify 2,311 of these microsatellites, and a set of 300 was tested against a DNA panel derived from 28 C. cardunculus genotypes. Consistent amplification and polymorphism was obtained from 236 of these assays. Their polymorphic information content (PIC) ranged from 0.04 to 0.90 (mean 0.66). Between 176 and 198 of the assays were informative in at least one of the three available mapping populations.
EST-based microsatellites have provided a large set of de novo genetic markers, which show significant amounts of polymorphism both between and within the three taxa of C. cardunculus. They are thus well suited as assays for phylogenetic analysis, the construction of genetic maps, marker-assisted breeding, transcript mapping and other genomic applications in the species.
PMCID: PMC2760586  PMID: 19785740
20.  Exploiting the Substrate Promiscuity of Hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:Shikimate Hydroxycinnamoyl Transferase to Reduce Lignin 
Plant and Cell Physiology  2016;57(3):568-579.
Lignin poses a major challenge in the processing of plant biomass for agro-industrial applications. For bioengineering purposes, there is a pressing interest in identifying and characterizing the enzymes responsible for the biosynthesis of lignin. Hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:shikimate hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HCT; EC is a key metabolic entry point for the synthesis of the most important lignin monomers: coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols. In this study, we investigated the substrate promiscuity of HCT from a bryophyte (Physcomitrella) and from five representatives of vascular plants (Arabidopsis, poplar, switchgrass, pine and Selaginella) using a yeast expression system. We demonstrate for these HCTs a conserved capacity to acylate with p-coumaroyl-CoA several phenolic compounds in addition to the canonical acceptor shikimate normally used during lignin biosynthesis. Using either recombinant HCT from switchgrass (PvHCT2a) or an Arabidopsis stem protein extract, we show evidence of the inhibitory effect of these phenolics on the synthesis of p-coumaroyl shikimate in vitro, which presumably occurs via a mechanism of competitive inhibition. A structural study of PvHCT2a confirmed the binding of a non-canonical acceptor in a similar manner to shikimate in the active site of the enzyme. Finally, we exploited in Arabidopsis the substrate flexibility of HCT to reduce lignin content and improve biomass saccharification by engineering transgenic lines that overproduce one of the HCT non-canonical acceptors. Our results demonstrate conservation of HCT substrate promiscuity and provide support for a new strategy for lignin reduction in the effort to improve the quality of plant biomass for forage and cellulosic biofuels.
PMCID: PMC4790474  PMID: 26858288
Arabidopsis; Bioenergy; Cell wall; HCT; Lignin; Saccharification
21.  Mild Potassium Chloride Stress Alters the Mineral Composition, Hormone Network, and Phenolic Profile in Artichoke Leaves 
There is a growing interest among consumers and researchers in the globe artichoke [Cynara cardunculus L. subsp. scolymus (L.) Hegi] leaf extract due to its nutraceutical and therapeutic properties. The application of an abiotic stress such as salinity can activate the stress-signaling pathways, thus enhancing the content of valuable phytochemicals. The aim of this study was to assess the metabolic changes in artichokes by probing the leaf metabolome of artichoke plants grown in a floating system and exposed to a relatively mild (30 mM) potassium chloride (KCl) salt stress. Potassium chloride treatment decreased the leaf dry biomass of artichoke, macro- and microelements in leaves (e.g., Ca, Mg, Mn, Zn, and B) but increased the concentrations of K and Cl. Metabolomics highlighted that the hormonal network of artichokes was strongly imbalanced by KCl. The indole-3-acetic acid conjugates, the brassinosteroids hormone 6-deoxocastasterone, and even more the cytokinin precursor N6-(Delta-2-isopentenyl)-adenosine-5′-triphosphate, strongly increased in leaves of KCl-treated plants. Moreover, KCl saline treatment induced accumulation of GA4, a bioactive form additional to the already known GA3. Another specific response to salinity was changes in the phenolic compounds profile, with flavones and isoflavones being decreased by KCl treatment, whereas flavonoid glycosides increased. The osmotic/oxidative stress that salinity generates also induced some expected changes at the biochemical level (e.g., ascorbate degradation, membrane lipid peroxidation, and accumulation of mannitol phosphate). These latter results help explain the molecular/physiological mechanisms that the plant uses to cope with potassium chloride stress exposure.
PMCID: PMC4923119  PMID: 27446175
Cynara cardunculus subsp. scolymus; flavonoid conjugates; lipid peroxidation; metabolomics; phytohormones; salinity
22.  Phenylpropanoids Accumulation in Eggplant Fruit: Characterization of Biosynthetic Genes and Regulation by a MYB Transcription Factor 
Phenylpropanoids are major secondary metabolites in eggplant (Solanum melongena) fruits. Chlorogenic acid (CGA) accounts for 70–90% of total phenolics in flesh tissues, while anthocyanins are mainly present in the fruit skin. As a contribution to the understanding of the peculiar accumulation of these health-promoting metabolites in eggplant, we report on metabolite abundance, regulation of CGA and anthocyanin biosynthesis, and characterization of candidate CGA biosynthetic genes in S. melongena. Higher contents of CGA, Delphinidin 3-rutinoside, and rutin were found in eggplant fruits compared to other tissues, associated to an elevated transcript abundance of structural genes such as PAL, HQT, DFR, and ANS, suggesting that active in situ biosynthesis contributes to anthocyanin and CGA accumulation in fruit tissues. Putative orthologs of the two CGA biosynthetic genes PAL and HQT, as well as a variant of a MYB1 transcription factor showing identity with group six MYBs, were isolated from an Occidental S. melongena traditional variety and demonstrated to differ from published sequences from Asiatic varieties. In silico analysis of the isolated SmPAL1, SmHQT1, SmANS, and SmMyb1 promoters revealed the presence of several Myb regulatory elements for the biosynthetic genes and unique elements for the TF, suggesting its involvement in other physiological roles beside phenylpropanoid biosynthesis regulation. Transient overexpression in Nicotiana benthamiana leaves of SmMyb1 and of a C-terminal SmMyb1 truncated form (SmMyb1Δ9) resulted in anthocyanin accumulation only of SmMyb1 agro-infiltrated leaves. A yeast two-hybrid assay confirmed the interaction of both SmMyb1 and SmMyb1Δ9 with an anthocyanin-related potato bHLH1 TF. Interestingly, a doubled amount of CGA was detected in both SmMyb1 and SmMyb1Δ9 agro-infiltrated leaves, thus suggesting that the N-terminal region of SmMyb1 is sufficient to activate its synthesis. These data suggest that a deletion of the C-terminal region of SmMyb1 does not limit its capability to regulate CGA accumulation, but impairs anthocyanin biosynthesis. To our knowledge, this is the first study reporting a functional elucidation of the role of the C-term conserved domain in MYB activator proteins.
PMCID: PMC4729908  PMID: 26858726
S. melongena; chlorogenic acid; RACE; qRT-PCR; gene regulation; genome walking
23.  Precursor-Directed Combinatorial Biosynthesis of Cinnamoyl, Dihydrocinnamoyl, and Benzoyl Anthranilates in Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0138972.
Biological synthesis of pharmaceuticals and biochemicals offers an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional chemical synthesis. These alternative methods require the design of metabolic pathways and the identification of enzymes exhibiting adequate activities. Cinnamoyl, dihydrocinnamoyl, and benzoyl anthranilates are natural metabolites which possess beneficial activities for human health, and the search is expanding for novel derivatives that might have enhanced biological activity. For example, biosynthesis in Dianthus caryophyllus is catalyzed by hydroxycinnamoyl/benzoyl-CoA:anthranilate N-hydroxycinnamoyl/ benzoyltransferase (HCBT), which couples hydroxycinnamoyl-CoAs and benzoyl-CoAs to anthranilate. We recently demonstrated the potential of using yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) for the biological production of a few cinnamoyl anthranilates by heterologous co-expression of 4-coumaroyl:CoA ligase from Arabidopsis thaliana (4CL5) and HCBT. Here we report that, by exploiting the substrate flexibility of both 4CL5 and HCBT, we achieved rapid biosynthesis of more than 160 cinnamoyl, dihydrocinnamoyl, and benzoyl anthranilates in yeast upon feeding with both natural and non-natural cinnamates, dihydrocinnamates, benzoates, and anthranilates. Our results demonstrate the use of enzyme promiscuity in biological synthesis to achieve high chemical diversity within a defined class of molecules. This work also points to the potential for the combinatorial biosynthesis of diverse and valuable cinnamoylated, dihydrocinnamoylated, and benzoylated products by using the versatile biological enzyme 4CL5 along with characterized cinnamoyl-CoA- and benzoyl-CoA-utilizing transferases.
PMCID: PMC4591981  PMID: 26430899
24.  Production of phenylacetyl-homoserine lactone analogs by artificial biosynthetic pathway in Escherichia coli 
Quorum sensing (QS) networks are more commonly known as acyl homoserine lactone (HSL) networks. Recently, p-coumaroyl-HSL has been found in a photosynthetic bacterium. p-coumaroyl-HSL is derived from a lignin monomer, p-coumaric acid, rather than a fatty acyl group. The p-coumaroyl-HSL may serve an ecological role in diverse QS pathways between p-coumaroyl-HSL producing bacteria and specific plants. Interference with QS has been regarded as a novel way to control bacterial infections. Heterologous production of the QS molecule, p-coumaroyl-HSL, could provide a sustainable and controlled means for its large-scale production, in contrast to the restricted feedback regulation and extremely low productivity of natural producers.
We developed an artificial biosynthetic process for phenylacetyl-homoserine lactone analogs, including cinnamoyl-HSL, p-coumaroyl-HSL, caffeoyl-HSL, and feruloyl-HSL, using a bioconversion method via E. coli (CB1) in the co-expression of the codon-optimized LuxI-type synthase (RpaI) and p-coumaroyl-CoA ligase (4CL2nt). In addition to this, we show the de novo production of p-coumaroyl-HSL in heterologous host E. coli (DN1) and tyrosine overproducing E. coli (DN2), containing the rpaI gene in addition to p-coumaroyl-CoA biosynthetic genes. The yields for p-coumaroyl-HSL reached 93.4 ± 0.6 and 142.5 ± 1.0 mg/L in the S-adenosyl-l-methionine and l-methionine feeding culture in the DN2 strain, respectively.
This is the first report of a de novo biosynthesis in a heterologous host yielding a QS molecule, p-coumaroyl-HSL from a glucose medium using a single vector system combining p-coumaroyl-CoA biosynthetic genes and the LuxI-type synthase gene.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12934-015-0379-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4659178  PMID: 26608135
Homoserine lactone (HSL); Phenylacetyl-HSL; p-coumaroyl-HSL; Artificial biosynthesis
25.  Role of Chlorogenic Acids in Controlling Oxidative and Inflammatory Stress Conditions 
Nutrients  2015;8(1):16.
Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are esters formed between caffeic and quinic acids, and represent an abundant group of plant polyphenols present in the human diet. CGAs have different subgroups that include caffeoylquinic, p-coumaroylquinic, and feruloyquinic acids. Results of epidemiological studies suggest that the consumption of beverages such as coffee, tea, wine, different herbal infusions, and also some fruit juices are linked to reduced risks of developing different chronic diseases. These beverages contain CGAs present in different concentrations and isomeric mixtures. The underlying mechanism(s) for specific health benefits attributed to CGAs involves mitigating oxidative stress, and hence the related adverse effects associated with an unbalanced intracellular redox state. There is also evidence to show that CGAs exhibit anti-inflammatory activities by modulating a number of important metabolic pathways. This review will focus on three specific aspects of the relevance of CGAs in coffee beverages; namely: (1) the relative composition of different CGA isomers present in coffee beverages; (2) analysis of in vitro and in vivo evidence that CGAs and individual isomers can mitigate oxidative and inflammatory stresses; and (3) description of the molecular mechanisms that have a key role in the cell signaling activity that underlines important functions.
PMCID: PMC4728630  PMID: 26712785
chlorogenic acid isomers; coffee; antioxidant activity; oxidative stress; anti-inflammation; inflammatory stress

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