The cyanogenic syndrome in rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis: tissue-damage-dependent activation of linamarase and hydroxynitrile lyase accelerates hydrogen cyanide release.
ABSTRACT The release of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) from injured plant tissue affects multiple ecological interactions. Plant-derived HCN can act as a defence against herbivores and also plays an important role in plant-pathogen interactions. Crucial for activity as a feeding deterrent is the amount of HCN generated per unit time, referred to as cyanogenic capacity (HCNc). Strong intraspecific variation in HCNc has been observed among cyanogenic plants. This variation, in addition to genotypic variability (e.g. in Trifolium repens), can result from modifications in the expression level of the enzymes involved in either cyanogenic precursor formation or HCN release (as seen in Sorghum bicolor and Phaseolus lunatus). Thus, a modification or modulation of HCNc in reaction to the environment can only be achieved from one to the next generation when under genetic control and within days or hours when transcriptional regulations are involved. In the present study, it is shown that in rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) HCNc is modulated by post-translational activity regulation of the key enzymes for cyanide release.
Linamarase (LIN) and hydroxynitrile lyase (HNL) activity was determined by colorimetric assays utilizing dissociation of the substrates p-nitrophenyl-β-d-glucopyranoside and acetone cyanohydrin, respectively.
In rubber tree leaves, LIN and HNL show up to ten-fold increased activity in response to tissue damage. This enzyme activation occurs within seconds and results in accelerated HCN formation. It is restricted to the damaged leaf area and depends on the severity of tissue damage.
LIN and HNL activation (in contrast to genetic and transcriptional regulations) allows an immediate, local and damage type-dependent modulation of the cyanogenic response. Accordingly, this post-translational activation plays a decisive role in the defence of H. brasiliensis against herbivores as well as pathogens and may allow more flexible reactions in response to these different antagonists.