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1.  UV-B light contributes directly to the synthesis of chiloglottone floral volatiles 
Annals of Botany  2015;115(4):693-703.
Background and Aims Australian sexually deceptive Chiloglottis orchids attract their specific male wasp pollinators by means of 2,5-dialkylcyclohexane-1,3-diones or ‘chiloglottones’, representing a newly discovered class of volatiles with unique structures. This study investigated the hypothesis that UV-B light at low intensities is directly required for chiloglottone biosynthesis in Chiloglottis trapeziformis.
Methods Chiloglottone production occurs only in specific tissue (the callus) of the labellum. Cut buds and flowers, and whole plants with buds and flowers, sourced from the field, were kept in a growth chamber and interactions between growth stage of the flowers and duration and intensity of UV-B exposure on chiloglottone production were studied. The effects of the protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide were also examined.
Key Results Chiloglottone was not present in buds, but was detected in buds that were manually opened and then exposed to sunlight, or artificial UV-B light for ≥5 min. Spectrophotometry revealed that the sepals and petals blocked UV-B light from reaching the labellum inside the bud. Rates of chiloglottone production increased with developmental stage, increasing exposure time and increasing UV-B irradiance intensity. Cycloheximide did not inhibit the initial production of chiloglottone within 5 min of UV-B exposure. However, inhibition of chiloglottone production by cycloheximide occurred over 2 h of UV-B exposure, indicating a requirement for de novo protein synthesis to sustain chiloglottone production under UV-B.
Conclusions The sepals and petals of Chiloglottis orchids strongly block UV-B wavelengths of light, preventing chiloglottone production inside the bud. While initiation of chiloglottone biosynthesis requires only UV-B light, sustained chiloglottone biosynthesis requires both UV-B and de novo protein biosynthesis. The internal amounts of chiloglottone in a flower reflect the interplay between developmental stage, duration and intensity of UV-B exposure, de novo protein synthesis, and feedback loops linked to the starting amount of chiloglottone. It is concluded that UV-B light contributes directly to chiloglottone biosynthesis. These findings suggest an entirely new and unexpected biochemical reaction that might also occur in taxa other than these orchids.
PMCID: PMC4343295  PMID: 25649114
Chiloglottis trapeziformis; orchids; Orchidaceae; 2; 5-dialkylcyclohexane-1; 3-diones; biochemistry; chiloglottone; UV-B; floral semiochemical; pollination; sexual deception; floral volatiles
2.  Biosynthesis of Lycosantalonol, a cis-Prenyl Derived Diterpenoid 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2014;136(49):16951-16953.
Terpenoid natural products are generally derived from isoprenyl diphosphate precursors with trans double-bond configuration, and no diterpenoid derived from the cisoid precursor (Z,Z,Z)-nerylneryl diphosphate (1) has yet been identified. Here further investigation of a terpenoid biosynthetic gene cluster from tomato is reported, which resulted in identification of a biosynthetic pathway from 1, in a pathway featuring a number of interesting transformations. Compound 1 is first cyclized to a tricyclene core ring structure analogous to that found in α-santalene, with the resulting diterpene termed here lycosantalene (2). Quantum chemical calculations indicate a role for the diphosphate anion coproduct in this cyclization reaction. Subsequently, the internal cis double bond of the neryl side chain in 2 is then further transformed to an α-hydroxy ketone moiety via an epoxide intermediate (3). Oxygen labeling studies indicate 3 undergoes oxidative conversion to lycosantalonol (4). Thus, in addition to elucidating the cisoid origins of 4, this work has further provided mechanistic insight into the interesting transformations required for its production.
PMCID: PMC4277783  PMID: 25406026
3.  Biosynthesis of the Diterpenoid Lycosantalonol via Nerylneryl Diphosphate in Solanum lycopersicum 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0119302.
We recently reported that three genes involved in the biosynthesis of monoterpenes in trichomes, a cis-prenyltransferase named neryl diphosphate synthase 1 (NDPS1) and two terpene synthases (TPS19 and TPS20), are present in close proximity to each other at the tip of chromosome 8 in the genome of the cultivated tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). This terpene gene “cluster” also contains a second cis-prenyltransferase gene (CPT2), three other TPS genes, including TPS21, and the cytochrome P450-oxidoreductase gene CYP71BN1. CPT2 encodes a neryneryl diphosphate synthase. Co-expression in E. coli of CPT2 and TPS21 led to the formation of the diterpene lycosantalene, and co-expression in E. coli of CPT2, TPS21 and CYP71BN1 led to the formation of lycosantalonol, an oxidation product of lycosantalene. Here we show that maximal expression of all three genes occurs in the petiolule part of the leaf, but little expression of these genes occurs in the trichomes present on the petiolules. While lycosantalene or lycosantalonol cannot be detected in the petiolules of wild-type plants (or anywhere else in the plant), lycosantalene and lycosantalonol are detected in petiolules of transgenic tomato plants expressing CPT2 under the control of the 35S CaMV promoter. These results suggest that lycosantalene and lycosantalonol are produced in the petiolules and perhaps in other tissues of wild-type plants, but that low rate of synthesis, controlled by the rate-limiting enzyme CPT2, results in product levels that are too low for detection under our current methodology. It is also possible that these compounds are further modified in the plant. The involvement of CPT2, TPS21 and CYP71BN1 in a diterpenoid biosynthetic pathway outside the trichomes, together with the involvement of other genes in the cluster in the synthesis of monoterpenes in trichomes, indicates that this cluster is further evolving into “sub-clusters” with unique biochemical, and likely physiological, roles.
PMCID: PMC4364678  PMID: 25786135
4.  The production of a key floral volatile is dependent on UV light in a sexually deceptive orchid 
Annals of Botany  2012;111(1):21-30.
Background and Aims
Plants use a diverse range of visual and olfactory cues to advertize to pollinators. Australian Chiloglottis orchids employ one to three related chemical variants, all 2,5-dialkylcyclohexane-1,3-diones or ‘chiloglottones’ to sexually attract their specific male pollinators. Here an investigation was made of the physiological aspects of chiloglottone synthesis and storage that have not previously been examined.
The location of chiloglottone production was determined and developmental and diurnal changes by GC-MS analysis of floral tissue extracts was monitored in two distantly related Chiloglottis species. Light treatment experiments were also performed using depleted flowers to evaluate if sunlight is required for chiloglottone production; which specific wavelengths of light are required was also determined.
Key Results
Chiloglottone production only occurs in specific floral tissues (the labellum calli and sepals) of open flowers. Upon flower opening chiloglottone production is rapid and levels remain more or less stable both day and night, and over the 2- to 3-week lifetime of the flower. Furthermore, it was determined that chiloglottone production requires continuous sunlight, and determined the optimal wavelengths of sunlight in the UV-B range (with peak of 300 nm).
UV-B light is required for the synthesis of chiloglottones – the semiochemicals used by Chiloglottis orchids to sexually lure their male pollinators. This discovery appears to be the first case to our knowledge where plant floral odour production depends on UV-B radiation at normal levels of sunlight. In the future, identification of the genes and enzymes involved, will allow us to understand better the role of UV-B light in the biosynthesis of chiloglottones.
PMCID: PMC3523645  PMID: 23091095
Chiloglottis trapeziformis; C. seminuda; UV-B, sexual deception; floral odour; pollination; 2,5-dialkylcyclohexane-1,3-diones; secondary metabolism; specialized metabolites
5.  Identification of white campion (Silene latifolia) guaiacol O-methyltransferase involved in the biosynthesis of veratrole, a key volatile for pollinator attraction 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:158.
Silene latifolia and its pollinator, the noctuid moth Hadena bicruris, represent an open nursery pollination system wherein floral volatiles, especially veratrole (1, 2-dimethoxybenzene), lilac aldehydes, and phenylacetaldehyde are of key importance for floral signaling. Despite the important role of floral scent in ensuring reproductive success in S. latifolia, the molecular basis of scent biosynthesis in this species has not yet been investigated.
We isolated two full-length cDNAs from S. latifolia that show similarity to rose orcinol O-methyltransferase. Biochemical analysis showed that both S. latifolia guaiacol O-methyltransferase1 (SlGOMT1) &S. latifolia guaiacol O-methyltransferase2 (SlGOMT2) encode proteins that catalyze the methylation of guaiacol to form veratrole. A large Km value difference between SlGOMT1 (~10 μM) and SlGOMT2 (~501 μM) resulted that SlGOMT1 is 31-fold more catalytically efficient than SlGOMT2. qRT-PCR expression analysis showed that the SlGOMT genes are specifically expressed in flowers and male S. latifolia flowers had 3- to 4-folds higher level of GOMT gene transcripts than female flower tissues. Two related cDNAs, S. dioica O-methyltransferase1 (SdOMT1) and S. dioica O-methyltransferase2 (SdOMT2), were also obtained from the sister species Silene dioica, but the proteins they encode did not methylate guaiacol, consistent with the lack of veratrole emission in the flowers of this species. Our evolutionary analysis uncovered that SlGOMT1 and SlGOMT2 genes evolved under positive selection, whereas SdOMT1 and SdOMT2 genes show no evidence for selection.
Altogether, we report the identification and functional characterization of the gene, SlGOMT1 that efficiently catalyzes veratrole formation, whereas another copy of this gene with only one amino acid difference, SlGOMT2 was found to be less efficient for veratrole synthesis in S. latifolia.
PMCID: PMC3492160  PMID: 22937972
Floral scent; VOC; 1, 2-dimethoxybenzene; Pollination; Hadena bicruris
6.  RNA-seq discovery, functional characterization, and comparison of sesquiterpene synthases from Solanum lycopersicum and Solanum habrochaites trichomes 
Plant Molecular Biology  2011;77(4-5):323-336.
Solanum lycopersicum and Solanum habrochaites (f. typicum) accession PI127826 emit a variety of sesquiterpenes. To identify terpene synthases involved in the production of these volatile sesquiterpenes, we used massive parallel pyrosequencing (RNA-seq) to obtain the transcriptome of the stem trichomes from these plants. This approach resulted initially in the discovery of six sesquiterpene synthase cDNAs from S. lycopersicum and five from S. habrochaites. Searches of other databases and the S. lycopersicum genome resulted in the discovery of two additional sesquiterpene synthases expressed in trichomes. The sesquiterpene synthases from S. lycopersicum and S. habrochaites have high levels of protein identity. Several of them appeared to encode for non-functional proteins. Functional recombinant proteins produced germacrenes, β-caryophyllene/α-humulene, viridiflorene and valencene from (E,E)-farnesyl diphosphate. However, the activities of these enzymes do not completely explain the differences in sesquiterpene production between the two tomato plants. RT-qPCR confirmed high levels of expression of most of the S. lycopersicum sesquiterpene synthases in stem trichomes. In addition, one sesquiterpene synthase was induced by jasmonic acid, while another appeared to be slightly repressed by the treatment. Our data provide a foundation to study the evolution of terpene synthases in cultivated and wild tomato.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11103-011-9813-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3193516  PMID: 21818683
Sesquiterpene synthase; Trichomes; RNA-seq; Wild and cultivated tomato; Jasmonate
7.  Biosynthesis of Plant Volatiles: Nature’s Diversity and Ingenuity 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2006;311(5762):808-811.
Plant volatiles (PVs) are lipophilic molecules with high vapor pressure that serve various ecological roles. The synthesis of PVs involves the removal of hydrophilic moieties and oxidation/hydroxylation, reduction, methylation, and acylation reactions. Some PV biosynthetic enzymes produce multiple products from a single substrate or act on multiple substrates. Genes for PV biosynthesis evolve by duplication of genes that direct other aspects of plant metabolism; these duplicated genes then diverge from each other over time. Changes in the preferred substrate or resultant product of PV enzymes may occur through minimal changes of critical residues. Convergent evolution is often responsible for the ability of distally related species to synthesize the same volatile.
PMCID: PMC2861909  PMID: 16469917
8.  The lack of floral synthesis and emission of isoeugenol in Petunia axillaris subsp. parodii is due to a mutation in the isoeugenol synthase gene 
Floral scent has been extensively investigated in plants of the South American genus Petunia. Flowers of Petunia integrifolia emit mostly benzaldehyde, while flowers of Petunia axillaris subspecies axillaris emit a mixture of volatile benzenoid and phenylpropanoid compounds that include isoeugenol and eugenol. Flowers of the man-made species P. hybrida, a hybrid of P. integrifolia and P. axillaris, emit a similar spectrum of volatiles as P. axillaris subsp. axillaris. However, the flowers of P. axillaris subspecies parodii emit neither isoeugenol nor eugenol but contain high levels of dihydroconiferyl acetate in the petals, the main scent-synthesizing and scent-emitting organs. We recently showed that both isoeugenol and eugenol in P. hybrida are biosynthesized from coniferyl acetate in reactions catalyzed by isoeugenol synthase (PhIGS1) and eugenol synthase (PhEGS1), respectively, via a quinone methide-like intermediate. Here we show that P. axillaris subsp. parodii has a functional EGS gene that is expressed in flowers, but its IGS gene contains a frame-shift mutation that renders it inactive. Despite the presence of active EGS enzyme in P. axillaris subsp. parodii, in the absence of IGS activity the coniferyl acetate substrate is converted by a yet unknown enzyme to dihydroconiferyl acetate. By contrast, suppressing the expression of PhIGS1 in P. hybrida by RNAi also leads to a decrease in isoeugenol biosynthesis, but instead of the accumulation of dihydroconiferyl acetate, the flowers synthesize higher levels of eugenol.
PMCID: PMC2860387  PMID: 19222805
pollination; plant volatile; scent; evolution; petunia
9.  An Arabidopsis thaliana methyltransferase capable of methylating farnesoic acid☆ 
We previously reported the identification of a new family of plant methyltransferases (MTs), named the SABATH family, that use S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM) to methylate a carboxyl moiety or a nitrogen-containing functional group on a diverse array of plant compounds. The Arabidopsis genome alone contains 24 distinct SABATH genes. To identify the catalytic specificities of members of this protein family in Arabidopsis, we screened recombinantly expressed and purified enzymes with a large number of potential substrates. Here,we report that the Arabidopsis thaliana gene At3g44860 encodes a protein with high catalytic specificity towards farnesoic acid (FA). Under steady-state conditions, this farnesoic acid carboxyl methyltransferase (FAMT) exhibits KM values of 41 and 71 μM for FA and SAM, respectively. A three-dimensional model of FAMT constructed based upon similarity to the experimentally determined structure of Clarkia breweri salicylic acid methyltransferase (SAMT) suggests a reasonable model for FA recognition in the FAMT active site. In planta, the mRNA levels of At3g44860 increase in response to the exogenous addition of several compounds previously shown to induce plant defense responses at the transcriptional level. Although methyl farnesoate (MeFA) has not yet been detected in Arabidopsis, the presence of a FA-specific carboxyl methyltransferase in Arabidopsis capable of producing MeFA, an insect juvenile hormone made by some plants as a presumed defense against insect herbivory, suggests that MeFA or chemically similar compounds are likely to serve as new specialized metabolites in Arabidopsis.
PMCID: PMC2859290  PMID: 16165084
Plant biochemistry; Secondary metabolism; Plant defense; Methyl farnesoate; Terpenes; Insect juvenile hormone; Biochemical genomics; 3-Dimensional protein structure; Arabidopsis
10.  The Herbivore-Induced Plant Volatile Methyl Salicylate Negatively Affects Attraction of the Parasitoid Diadegma semiclausum 
Journal of Chemical Ecology  2010;36(5):479-489.
The indirect defense mechanisms of plants comprise the production of herbivore-induced plant volatiles that can attract natural enemies of plant attackers. One of the often emitted compounds after herbivory is methyl salicylate (MeSA). Here, we studied the importance of this caterpillar-induced compound in the attraction of the parasitoid wasp Diadegma semiclausum by using a mutant Arabidopsis line. Pieris rapae infested AtBSMT1-KO mutant Arabidopsis plants, compromised in the biosynthesis of MeSA, were more attractive to parasitoids than infested wild-type plants. This suggests that the presence of MeSA has negative effects on parasitoid host-finding behavior when exposed to wild-type production of herbivore-induced Arabidopsis volatiles. Furthermore, in line with this, we recorded a positive correlation between MeSA dose and repellence of D. semiclausum when supplementing the headspace of caterpillar-infested AtBSMT1-KO plants with synthetic MeSA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10886-010-9787-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2866304  PMID: 20407809
Herbivore-induced plant volatile; SABATH methyl transferase; BSMT1; Methyl salicylate; Parasitoid host-location behaviour; Herbivory; Volatile emission
11.  The multiple phenylpropene synthases in both Clarkia breweri and Petunia hybrida represent two distinct protein lineages 
Many plants synthesize the volatile phenylpropene compounds eugenol and isoeugenol to serve in defense against herbivores and pathogens and to attract pollinators. Clarkia breweri flowers emit a mixture of eugenol and isoeugenol, while Petunia hybrida flowers emit mostly isoeugenol with small amounts of eugenol. We recently reported the identification of a petunia enzyme, PhIGS1, that catalyzes the formation of isoeugenol, and an Ocimum basilicum (basil) enzyme, ObEGS1, that produces eugenol. ObEGS1 and PhIGS1 both utilize coniferyl acetate, are 52% sequence identical, and belong to a family of NADPH-dependent reductases involved in secondary metabolism. Here we show that C. breweri flowers have two closely related proteins (96% identity), CbIGS1 and CbEGS1, that are similar to ObEGS1 (58% and 59%) and catalyze the formation of isoeugenol and eugenol, respectively. In vitro mutagenesis experiments demonstrate that substitution of only a single residue can substantially affect the product specificity of these enzymes. A third C. breweri enzyme identified, CbEGS2, also catalyzes the formation of eugenol from coniferyl acetate and is only 46% identical to CbIGS1 and CbEGS1 but more similar (>70%) to other types of reductases. We also found that petunia flowers contain an enzyme, PhEGS1, that is highly similar to CbEGS2 (82% identity) and that converts coniferyl acetate to eugenol. Our results indicate that plant enzymes with EGS and IGS activities have arisen multiple times and in different protein lineages.
PMCID: PMC2741023  PMID: 18208524
secondary metabolism; biochemistry; protein structure; plant volatile; scent
12.  Structure and Reaction Mechanism of Basil Eugenol Synthase 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(10):e993.
Phenylpropenes, a large group of plant volatile compounds that serve in multiple roles in defense and pollinator attraction, contain a propenyl side chain. Eugenol synthase (EGS) catalyzes the reductive displacement of acetate from the propenyl side chain of the substrate coniferyl acetate to produce the allyl-phenylpropene eugenol. We report here the structure determination of EGS from basil (Ocimum basilicum) by protein x-ray crystallography. EGS is structurally related to the short-chain dehydrogenase/reductases (SDRs), and in particular, enzymes in the isoflavone-reductase-like subfamily. The structure of a ternary complex of EGS bound to the cofactor NADP(H) and a mixed competitive inhibitor EMDF ((7S,8S)-ethyl (7,8-methylene)-dihydroferulate) provides a detailed view of the binding interactions within the EGS active site and a starting point for mutagenic examination of the unusual reductive mechanism of EGS. The key interactions between EMDF and the EGS-holoenzyme include stacking of the phenyl ring of EMDF against the cofactor's nicotinamide ring and a water-mediated hydrogen-bonding interaction between the EMDF 4-hydroxy group and the side-chain amino moiety of a conserved lysine residue, Lys132. The C4 carbon of nicotinamide resides immediately adjacent to the site of hydride addition, the C7 carbon of cinnamyl acetate substrates. The inhibitor-bound EGS structure suggests a two-step reaction mechanism involving the formation of a quinone-methide prior to reduction. The formation of this intermediate is promoted by a hydrogen-bonding network that favors deprotonation of the substrate's 4-hydroxyl group and disfavors binding of the acetate moiety, akin to a push-pull catalytic mechanism. Notably, the catalytic involvement in EGS of the conserved Lys132 in preparing the phenolic substrate for quinone methide formation through the proton-relay network appears to be an adaptation of the analogous role in hydrogen bonding played by the equivalent lysine residue in other enzymes of the SDR family.
PMCID: PMC1991597  PMID: 17912370

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