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1.  Transcriptome resources and functional characterization of monoterpene synthases for two host species of the mountain pine beetle, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana) 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:80.
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.
PMCID: PMC3668260  PMID: 23679205
Conifer defence; Pine oleoresin; Terpenoid biosynthesis; Metabolite profile; Prenyl transferase; Cytochrome P450; Conifer genome
2.  Discovery and functional characterization of two diterpene synthases for sclareol biosynthesis in Salvia sclarea (L.) and their relevance for perfume manufacture 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:119.
Sclareol is a diterpene natural product of high value for the fragrance industry. Its labdane carbon skeleton and its two hydroxyl groups also make it a valued starting material for semisynthesis of numerous commercial substances, including production of Ambrox® and related ambergris substitutes used in the formulation of high end perfumes. Most of the commercially-produced sclareol is derived from cultivated clary sage (Salvia sclarea) and extraction of the plant material. In clary sage, sclareol mainly accumulates in essential oil-producing trichomes that densely cover flower calices. Manool also is a minor diterpene of this species and the main diterpene of related Salvia species.
Based on previous general knowledge of diterpene biosynthesis in angiosperms, and based on mining of our recently published transcriptome database obtained by deep 454-sequencing of cDNA from clary sage calices, we cloned and functionally characterized two new diterpene synthase (diTPS) enzymes for the complete biosynthesis of sclareol in clary sage. A class II diTPS (SsLPPS) produced labda-13-en-8-ol diphosphate as major product from geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP) with some minor quantities of its non-hydroxylated analogue, (9 S, 10 S)-copalyl diphosphate. A class I diTPS (SsSS) then transformed these intermediates into sclareol and manool, respectively. The production of sclareol was reconstructed in vitro by combining the two recombinant diTPS enzymes with the GGPP starting substrate and in vivo by co-expression of the two proteins in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Tobacco-based transient expression assays of green fluorescent protein-fusion constructs revealed that both enzymes possess an N-terminal signal sequence that actively targets SsLPPS and SsSS to the chloroplast, a major site of GGPP and diterpene production in plants.
SsLPPS and SsSS are two monofunctional diTPSs which, together, produce the diterpenoid specialized metabolite sclareol in a two-step process. They represent two of the first characterized hydroxylating diTPSs in angiosperms and generate the dihydroxylated labdane sclareol without requirement for additional enzymatic oxidation by activities such as cytochrome P450 monoxygenases. Yeast-based production of sclareol by co-expresssion of SsLPPS and SsSS was efficient enough to warrant the development and use of such technology for the biotechnological production of scareol and other oxygenated diterpenes.
PMCID: PMC3520730  PMID: 22834731
Diterpene; Sage; Salvia sclarea; Sclareol; Terpene synthase
3.  Targeted isolation, sequence assembly and characterization of two white spruce (Picea glauca) BAC clones for terpenoid synthase and cytochrome P450 genes involved in conifer defence reveal insights into a conifer genome 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:106.
Conifers are a large group of gymnosperm trees which are separated from the angiosperms by more than 300 million years of independent evolution. Conifer genomes are extremely large and contain considerable amounts of repetitive DNA. Currently, conifer sequence resources exist predominantly as expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and full-length (FL)cDNAs. There is no genome sequence available for a conifer or any other gymnosperm. Conifer defence-related genes often group into large families with closely related members. The goals of this study are to assess the feasibility of targeted isolation and sequence assembly of conifer BAC clones containing specific genes from two large gene families, and to characterize large segments of genomic DNA sequence for the first time from a conifer.
We used a PCR-based approach to identify BAC clones for two target genes, a terpene synthase (3-carene synthase; 3CAR) and a cytochrome P450 (CYP720B4) from a non-arrayed genomic BAC library of white spruce (Picea glauca). Shotgun genomic fragments isolated from the BAC clones were sequenced to a depth of 15.6- and 16.0-fold coverage, respectively. Assembly and manual curation yielded sequence scaffolds of 172 kbp (3CAR) and 94 kbp (CYP720B4) long. Inspection of the genomic sequences revealed the intron-exon structures, the putative promoter regions and putative cis-regulatory elements of these genes. Sequences related to transposable elements (TEs), high complexity repeats and simple repeats were prevalent and comprised approximately 40% of the sequenced genomic DNA. An in silico simulation of the effect of sequencing depth on the quality of the sequence assembly provides direction for future efforts of conifer genome sequencing.
We report the first targeted cloning, sequencing, assembly, and annotation of large segments of genomic DNA from a conifer. We demonstrate that genomic BAC clones for individual members of multi-member gene families can be isolated in a gene-specific fashion. The results of the present work provide important new information about the structure and content of conifer genomic DNA that will guide future efforts to sequence and assemble conifer genomes.
PMCID: PMC2729077  PMID: 19656416
4.  Transcriptome mining, functional characterization, and phylogeny of a large terpene synthase gene family in spruce (Picea spp.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:43.
In conifers, terpene synthases (TPSs) of the gymnosperm-specific TPS-d subfamily form a diverse array of mono-, sesqui-, and diterpenoid compounds, which are components of the oleoresin secretions and volatile emissions. These compounds contribute to defence against herbivores and pathogens and perhaps also protect against abiotic stress.
The availability of extensive transcriptome resources in the form of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) and full-length cDNAs in several spruce (Picea) species allowed us to estimate that a conifer genome contains at least 69 unique and transcriptionally active TPS genes. This number is comparable to the number of TPSs found in any of the sequenced and well-annotated angiosperm genomes. We functionally characterized a total of 21 spruce TPSs: 12 from Sitka spruce (P. sitchensis), 5 from white spruce (P. glauca), and 4 from hybrid white spruce (P. glauca × P. engelmannii), which included 15 monoterpene synthases, 4 sesquiterpene synthases, and 2 diterpene synthases.
The functional diversity of these characterized TPSs parallels the diversity of terpenoids found in the oleoresin and volatile emissions of Sitka spruce and provides a context for understanding this chemical diversity at the molecular and mechanistic levels. The comparative characterization of Sitka spruce and Norway spruce diterpene synthases revealed the natural occurrence of TPS sequence variants between closely related spruce species, confirming a previous prediction from site-directed mutagenesis and modelling.
PMCID: PMC3058080  PMID: 21385377
5.  Functional Annotation, Genome Organization and Phylogeny of the Grapevine (Vitis vinifera) Terpene Synthase Gene Family Based on Genome Assembly, FLcDNA Cloning, and Enzyme Assays 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:226.
Terpenoids are among the most important constituents of grape flavour and wine bouquet, and serve as useful metabolite markers in viticulture and enology. Based on the initial 8-fold sequencing of a nearly homozygous Pinot noir inbred line, 89 putative terpenoid synthase genes (VvTPS) were predicted by in silico analysis of the grapevine (Vitis vinifera) genome assembly [1]. The finding of this very large VvTPS family, combined with the importance of terpenoid metabolism for the organoleptic properties of grapevine berries and finished wines, prompted a detailed examination of this gene family at the genomic level as well as an investigation into VvTPS biochemical functions.
We present findings from the analysis of the up-dated 12-fold sequencing and assembly of the grapevine genome that place the number of predicted VvTPS genes at 69 putatively functional VvTPS, 20 partial VvTPS, and 63 VvTPS probable pseudogenes. Gene discovery and annotation included information about gene architecture and chromosomal location. A dense cluster of 45 VvTPS is localized on chromosome 18. Extensive FLcDNA cloning, gene synthesis, and protein expression enabled functional characterization of 39 VvTPS; this is the largest number of functionally characterized TPS for any species reported to date. Of these enzymes, 23 have unique functions and/or phylogenetic locations within the plant TPS gene family. Phylogenetic analyses of the TPS gene family showed that while most VvTPS form species-specific gene clusters, there are several examples of gene orthology with TPS of other plant species, representing perhaps more ancient VvTPS, which have maintained functions independent of speciation.
The highly expanded VvTPS gene family underpins the prominence of terpenoid metabolism in grapevine. We provide a detailed experimental functional annotation of 39 members of this important gene family in grapevine and comprehensive information about gene structure and phylogeny for the entire currently known VvTPS gene family.
PMCID: PMC3017849  PMID: 20964856
6.  Laser microdissection of conifer stem tissues: Isolation and analysis of high quality RNA, terpene synthase enzyme activity and terpenoid metabolites from resin ducts and cambial zone tissue of white spruce (Picea glauca) 
BMC Plant Biology  2010;10:106.
Laser microdissection (LMD) has been established for isolation of individual tissue types from herbaceous plants. However, there are few reports of cell- and tissue-specific analysis in woody perennials. While microdissected tissues are commonly analyzed for gene expression, reports of protein, enzyme activity and metabolite analysis are limited due in part to an inability to amplify these molecules. Conifer stem tissues are organized in regular patterns with xylem, phloem and cortex development controlled by the activity of the cambial zone (CZ). Defense responses of conifer stems against insects and pathogens involve increased accumulation of terpenoids in cortical resin ducts (CRDs) and de novo formation of traumatic resin ducts from CZ initials. These tissues are difficult to isolate for tissue-specific molecular and biochemical characterization and are thus good targets for application of LMD.
We describe robust methods for isolation of individual tissue-types from white spruce (Picea glauca) stems for analysis of RNA, enzyme activity and metabolites. A tangential cryosectioning approach was important for obtaining large quantities of CRD and CZ tissues using LMD. We report differential expression of genes involved in terpenoid metabolism between CRD and CZ tissues and in response to methyl jasmonate (MeJA). Transcript levels of β-pinene synthase and levopimaradiene/abietadiene synthase were constitutively higher in CRDs, but induction was stronger in CZ in response to MeJA. 3-Carene synthase was more strongly induced in CRDs compared to CZ. A differential induction pattern was observed for 1-deoxyxyulose-5-phosphate synthase, which was up-regulated in CRDs and down-regulated in CZ. We identified terpene synthase enzyme activity in CZ protein extracts and terpenoid metabolites in both CRD and CZ tissues.
Methods are described that allow for analysis of RNA, enzyme activity and terpenoid metabolites in individual tissues isolated by LMD from woody conifer stems. Patterns of gene expression are demonstrated in specific tissues that may be masked in analysis of heterogenous samples. Combined analysis of transcripts, proteins and metabolites of individual tissues will facilitate future characterization of complex processes of woody plant development, including periodic stem growth and dormancy, cell specialization, and defense and may be applied widely to other plant species.
PMCID: PMC3095273  PMID: 20540781

Results 1-6 (6)