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author:("Xu, meitei")
1.  Functional characterization of wheat ent-kaurene(-like) synthases indicates continuing evolution of labdane-related diterpenoid metabolism in the cereals 
Phytochemistry  2012;84C:47-55.
Wheat (Triticum aestivum) and rice (Oryza sativa) are two of the most agriculturally important cereal crop plants. Rice is known to produce numerous diterpenoid natural products that serve as phytoalexins and/or allelochemicals. Specifically, these are labdane-related diterpenoids, derived from a characteristic labdadienyl/copalyl diphosphate (CPP), whose biosynthetic relationship to gibberellin biosynthesis is evident from the relevant expanded and functionally diverse family of ent-kaurene synthase-like (KSL) genes found in rice (OsKSL). Here we report biochemical characterization of a similarly expansive family of KSL from wheat (the TaKSLs). In particular, beyond ent-kaurene synthases (KS), wheat also contains several biochemically diversified KSLs. These react either with the ent-CPP intermediate common to gibberellin biosynthesis or with the normal stereoisomer of CPP that also is found in wheat (as demonstrated by the accompanying description of wheat CPP synthases). Comparison with a barley (Hordeum vulgare) KS indicates conservation of monocot KS, with early and continued expansion and functional diversification of KSLs in at least the small grain cereals. In addition, some of the TaKSLs that utilize normal CPP also will react with syn-CPP, echoing previous findings with the OsKSL family, with such enzymatic promiscuity/plasticity providing insight into the continuing evolution of diterpenoid metabolism in the cereal crop plant family, as well as more generally, which is discussed here.
PMCID: PMC3483413  PMID: 23009879
ent-kaurene synthase; phytoalexin; phytoanticipin; allelochemicals; natural products biosynthesis; plant defense
2.  Effect of Isotopically Sensitive Branching on Product Distribution for Pentalenene Synthase – Support for a Mechanism Predicted by Quantum Chemistry 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2012;134(28):11369-11371.
Mechanistic proposals for the carbocation cas cade reaction leading to the tricyclic sesquiterpene pentalenene are assessed in light of the results of isotopically sensitive branching experiments with the H309A mutant of pentalenene synthase. These experimental results support a mechanism for pentalenene formation involving a 7-protoilludyl cation intermediate that was first predicted using quantum chemical calculations.
PMCID: PMC3402234  PMID: 22738258
terpene; kinetic isotope effect; quantum chemical calculations; carbocation; reaction mechanism; natural product biosynthesis
3.  Genetic evidence for natural product mediated plant–plant allelopathy in rice 
The New Phytologist  2011;193(3):570-575.
A role for specific natural products in directly mediating antagonistic plant–plant interactions –that is, allelopathy –has been controversial. If proven, such phenomena would hold considerable promise for agronomic improvement of staple food crops such as rice (Oryza sativa).However, while substantiated by the presence of phytotoxic compounds at potentially relevant levels, demonstrating a direct role for specific natural products in allelopathy has been difficult due to the chemical complexity of root and plant litter exudates. This complexity can be bypassed via selective genetic manipulation to ablate production of putative allelopathic compounds, but such an approach previously has not been applied.The rice diterpenoid momilactones provide an example of natural products for which correlative biochemical evidence has been obtained for a role in allelopathy. Here, we apply reverse genetics, using knock-outs of the relevant diterpene synthases (OsCPS4 and OsKSL4), to demonstrate that rice momilactones are involved in allelopathy, including suppressing growth of the widespread rice paddy weed, barnyard grass (Echinochloa crus-galli).Thus, our results not only provide novel genetic evidence for natural product mediated allelopathy, but also furnish a molecular target for breeding and metabolic engineering of this important crop plant.
PMCID: PMC3257406  PMID: 22150231
allelopathy; biosynthetic gene cluster; diterpenoids; momilactones; rice (Oryza sativa); weed suppression
4.  Domain loss has independently occurred multiple times in plant terpene synthase evolution 
The extensive family of plant terpene synthases (TPSs) generally has a bi-domain structure, yet phylogenetic analyses consistently indicate that these evolved from larger diterpene synthases. In particular, that duplication of the diterpene synthase genes required for gibberellin phytohormone biosynthesis provided an early predecessor, whose loss of a ~220 amino acid “internal sequence element” (now recognized as the γ domain) gave rise to the precursor of modern mono- and sesqui-TPSs found in all higher plants. Intriguingly, TPSs are conserved by taxonomic relationships rather than function, demonstrating that such functional radiation has occurred both repeatedly and relatively recently, yet phylogenetic analyses assume that “internal/γ” domain loss represents a single evolutionary event. Here we provide evidence that such loss was not a singular event, but rather has occurred multiple times. Specifically, we provide an example of a bi-domain diterpene synthase, from Salvia miltiorrhiza, along with a sesquiterpene synthase from Triticum aestivum (wheat) that is not only closely related to diterpene synthases, but retains the ent-kaurene synthase activity relevant to the ancestral gibberellin metabolic function. Indeed, while the wheat sesquiterpene synthase clearly no longer contains the “internal/γ” domain, it is closely related to rice diterpene synthase genes that retain the ancestral tri-domain structure. Thus, these findings provide examples of key evolutionary intermediates underlying the bi-domain structure observed in the expansive plant TPS gene family, as well as indicating that “internal/γ” domain loss has independently occurred multiple times, highlighting the complex evolutionary history of this important enzymatic family.
PMCID: PMC3237789  PMID: 21999670
5.  Functional characterization and evolution of the isotuberculosinol operon in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and related Mycobacteria 
Terpenoid metabolites are important to the cellular function, structural integrity, and pathogenesis of the human-specific pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). Genetic and biochemical investigations have indicated a role for the diterpenoid isotuberculosinol (isoTb) early in the infection process. There are only two genes (Rv3377c and Rv3378c) required for production of isoTb, yet these are found in what appears to be a five-gene terpenoid/isoprenoid biosynthetic operon. Of the three remaining genes (Rv3379c, Rv3382c, and Rv3383c), previous work has indicated that Rv3379c is an inactive pseudo-gene. Here we demonstrate that Rv3382c and Rv3383c encode biochemically redundant machinery for isoprenoid metabolism, encoding a functional 4-hydroxy-3-methylbut-2-enyl diphosphate reductase (LytB) for isoprenoid precursor production and a geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) synthase, respectively, for which the Mtb genome contains other functional isozymes (Rv1110 and Rv0562, respectively). These results complete the characterization of the isoTb biosynthetic operon, as well as further elucidating isoprenoid metabolism in Mtb. In addition, we have investigated the evolutionary origin of this operon, revealing Mtb-specific conservation of the diterpene synthase genes responsible for isoTb biosynthesis, which supports our previously advanced hypothesis that isoTb acts as a human-specific pathogenic metabolite and is consistent with the human host specificity of Mtb. Intriguingly, our results revealed that many mycobacteria contain orthologs for both Rv3383c and Rv0562, suggesting a potentially important role for these functionally redundant GGPP synthases in the evolution of terpenoid/isoprenoid metabolism in the mycobacteria.
PMCID: PMC3470408  PMID: 23091471
isoprenoid biosynthesis; molecular evolution; virulence; terpenoids
7.  Increasing diterpene yield with a modular metabolic engineering system in E. coli: comparison of MEV and MEP isoprenoid precursor pathway engineering 
Engineering biosynthetic pathways in heterologous microbial host organisms offers an elegant approach to pathway elucidation via the incorporation of putative biosynthetic enzymes and characterization of resulting novel metabolites. Our previous work in Escherichia coli demonstrated the feasibility of a facile modular approach to engineering the production of labdane-related diterpene (20 carbon) natural products. However, yield was limited (<0.1 mg/L), presumably due to reliance on endogenous production of the isoprenoid precursors dimethylallyl diphosphate and isopentenyl diphosphate. Here, we report incorporation of either a heterologous mevalonate pathway (MEV) or enhancement of the endogenous methyl erythritol phosphate pathway (MEP) with our modular metabolic engineering system. With MEP pathway enhancement, it was found that pyruvate supplementation of rich media and simultaneous overexpression of three genes (idi, dxs, and dxr) resulted in the greatest increase in diterpene yield, indicating distributed metabolic control within this pathway. Incorporation of a heterologous MEV pathway in bioreactor grown cultures resulted in significantly higher yields than MEP pathway enhancement. We have established suitable growth conditions for diterpene production levels ranging from 10 to >100 mg/L of E. coli culture. These amounts are sufficient for nuclear magnetic resonance analyses, enabling characterization of enzymatic products and hence, pathway elucidation. Furthermore, these results represent an up to >1,000-fold improvement in diterpene production from our facile, modular platform, with MEP pathway enhancement offering a cost effective alternative with reasonable yield. Finally, we reiterate here that this modular approach is expandable and should be easily adaptable to the production of any terpenoid natural product.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00253-009-2219-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2811251  PMID: 19777230
Terpenoid; Natural products biosynthesis; Metabolic engineering; Isoprenoid
8.  Characterization and Inhibition of a Class II Diterpene Cyclase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2009;284(35):23574-23579.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains a widespread and devastating human pathogen, whose ability to infiltrate macrophage host cells from the human immune system is an active area of investigation. We have recently reported the discovery of a novel diterpene from M. tuberculosis, edaxadiene, whose ability to arrest phagosomal maturation in isolation presumably contributes to this critical process in M. tuberculosis infections. (Mann, F. M., Xu, M., Chen, X., Fulton, D. B., Russell, D. G., and Peters, R. J. (2009) J. Am. Chem. Soc., in press). Here, we present characterization of the class II diterpene cyclase that catalyzes the committed step in edaxadiene biosynthesis, i.e. the previously identified halimadienyl-diphosphate synthase (HPS; EC Intriguingly, our kinetic analysis suggests a potential biochemical regulatory mechanism that triggers edaxadiene production upon phagosomal engulfment. Furthermore, we report characterization of potential HPS inhibitors: specifically, two related transition state analogs (15-aza-14,15-dihydrogeranylgeranyl diphosphate (7a) and 15-aza-14,15-dihydrogeranylgeranyl thiolodiphosphate (7b)) that exhibit very tight binding. Although arguably not suitable for clinical use, these nevertheless provide a basis for pharmaceutical design against this intriguing biosynthetic pathway. Finally, we provide evidence indicating that this pathway exists only in M. tuberculosis and is not functional in the closely related Mycobacterium bovis because of an inactivating frameshift in the HPS-encoding gene. Thus, we hypothesize that the inability to produce edaxadiene may be a contributing factor in the decreased infectivity and/or virulence of M. bovis relative to M. tuberculosis in humans.
PMCID: PMC2749132  PMID: 19574210
9.  Edaxadiene: A New Bioactive Diterpene from Mycobacterium tuberculosis 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2009;131(48):17526-17527.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains a widespread and devastating human pathogen. Presented here is the characterization of an atypical class I diterpene cyclase from M. tuberculosis that catalyzes an unusual cyclization reaction in converting the known M. tuberculosis metabolite halimadienyl diphosphate to a further cyclized novel diterpene, which we have termed edaxadiene, as it directly inhibits maturation of the phagosomal compartment in which the bacterium is taken up during infection.
PMCID: PMC2787244  PMID: 19583202

Results 1-9 (9)