The mountain pine beetle (MPB, Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic has affected lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) across an area of more than 18 million hectares of pine forests in western Canada, and is a threat to the boreal jack pine (Pinus banksiana) forest. Defence of pines against MPB and associated fungal pathogens, as well as other pests, involves oleoresin monoterpenes, which are biosynthesized by families of terpene synthases (TPSs). Volatile monoterpenes also serve as host recognition cues for MPB and as precursors for MPB pheromones. The genes responsible for terpene biosynthesis in jack pine and lodgepole pine were previously unknown.
We report the generation and quality assessment of assembled transcriptome resources for lodgepole pine and jack pine using Sanger, Roche 454, and Illumina sequencing technologies. Assemblies revealed transcripts for approximately 20,000 - 30,000 genes from each species and assembly analyses led to the identification of candidate full-length prenyl transferase, TPS, and P450 genes of oleoresin biosynthesis. We cloned and functionally characterized, via expression of recombinant proteins in E. coli, nine different jack pine and eight different lodgepole pine mono-TPSs. The newly identified lodgepole pine and jack pine mono-TPSs include (+)-α-pinene synthases, (-)-α-pinene synthases, (-)-β-pinene synthases, (+)-3-carene synthases, and (-)-β-phellandrene synthases from each of the two species.
In the absence of genome sequences, transcriptome assemblies are important for defence gene discovery in lodgepole pine and jack pine, as demonstrated here for the terpenoid pathway genes. The product profiles of the functionally annotated mono-TPSs described here can account for the major monoterpene metabolites identified in lodgepole pine and jack pine.