[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fast growing hybrid poplar offers the means for sustainable production of specialty and commodity chemicals, in addition to rapid biomass production for lignocellulosic deconstruction. Herein we describe transformation of fast-growing transgenic hybrid poplar lines to produce 2-phenylethanol, this being an important fragrance, flavor, aroma, and commodity chemical. It is also readily converted into styrene or ethyl benzene, the latter being an important commodity aviation fuel component. Introducing this biochemical pathway into hybrid poplars marks the beginnings of developing a platform for a sustainable chemical delivery system to afford this and other valuable specialty/commodity chemicals at the scale and cost needed. These modified plant lines mainly sequester 2-phenylethanol via carbohydrate and other covalently linked derivatives, thereby providing an additional advantage of effective storage until needed. The future potential of this technology is discussed. MALDI metabolite tissue imaging also established localization of these metabolites in the leaf vasculature.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(12):e83169. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Podophyllum species are sources of podophyllotoxin, an aryltetralin lignan used for semi-synthesis of various, extensively employed and powerful, cancer-treating drugs. The biosynthetic pathway to podophyllotoxin though remains largely unknown, with the last unequivocally demonstrated intermediate being (-)-matairesinol. Herein, massively parallel sequencing of Podophyllum hexandrum and P. peltatum transcriptomes and subsequent bioinformatics analyses of the corresponding assemblies were carried out. Validation of the assembly process was first achieved through confirmation of assembled sequences with those of various genes previously established as involved in podophyllotoxin biosynthesis, as well as other candidate biosynthetic pathway genes. This contribution describes characterization of two of the latter, namely the cytochrome P450s, Phex2158 from P. hexandrum and Ppelt3410 from P. peltatum, respectively. Both enzymes were capable of converting (-)-matairesinol into pluviatolide by catalyzing methylenedioxy bridge formation, and did not act on other possible substrates. Interestingly, the enzymes described herein were highly similar to methylenedioxy bridge-forming enzymes from alkaloid biosynthesis, whereas candidates more similar to lignan biosynthetic enzymes were catalytically inactive with the substrates employed. This overall strategy has thus enabled facile further identification of enzymes putatively involved in podophyllotoxin biosynthesis, and underscores the deductive power of next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to probe and deduce medicinal plant biosynthetic pathways.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2012; · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: How stereoselective monolignol-derived phenoxy radical-radical coupling reactions are differentially biochemically orchestrated in planta, whereby for example they afford (+)- and (-)-pinoresinols, respectively, is both a fascinating mechanistic and evolutionary question. In earlier work, biochemical control of (+)-pinoresinol formation had been established to be engendered by a (+)-pinoresinol-forming dirigent protein in Forsythia intermedia, whereas the presence of a (-)-pinoresinol-forming dirigent protein was indirectly deduced based on the enantiospecificity of downstream pinoresinol reductases (AtPrRs) in Arabidopsis thaliana root tissue. In this study of 16 putative dirigent protein homologs in Arabidopsis, AtDIR6, AtDIR10, and AtDIR13 were established to be root-specific using a β-glucuronidase reporter gene strategy. Of these three, in vitro analyses established that only recombinant AtDIR6 was a (-)-pinoresinol-forming dirigent protein, whose physiological role was further confirmed using overexpression and RNAi strategies in vivo. Interestingly, its closest homolog, AtDIR5, was also established to be a (-)-pinoresinol-forming dirigent protein based on in vitro biochemical analyses. Both of these were compared in terms of properties with a (+)-pinoresinol-forming dirigent protein from Schizandra chinensis. In this context, sequence analyses, site-directed mutagenesis, and region swapping resulted in identification of putative substrate binding sites/regions and candidate residues controlling distinct stereoselectivities of coupling modes.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 08/2012; 287(41):33957-72. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Secoisolariciresinol dehydrogenase (SDH) catalyzes the NAD+ dependent enantiospecific conversion of secoisolariciresinol into matairesinol. In Podophyllum species, (-)-matairesinol is metabolized into the antiviral compound, podophyllotoxin, which can be semi-synthetically converted into the anticancer agents, etoposide, teniposide and Etopophos. Matairesinol is also a precursor of the cancer-preventative "mammalian" lignan, enterolactone, formed in the gut following ingestion of, for example, various high fiber dietary foods, as well as being an intermediate to numerous defense compounds in vascular plants. This study investigated the mode of enantiospecific Podophyllum SDH catalysis, the order of binding, and the stereospecificity of hydride abstraction/transfer from secoisolariciresinol to NAD+. SDH contains a highly conserved catalytic triad (Ser153, Tyr167 and Lys171), whose activity was abolished with site-directed mutagenesis of Tyr167Ala and Lys171Ala, whereas mutagenesis of Ser153Ala only resulted in a much reduced catalytic activity. Isothermal titration calorimetry measurements indicated that NAD+ binds first followed by the substrate, (-)-secoisolariciresinol. Additionally, for hydride transfer, the incoming hydride abstracted from the substrate takes up the pro-S position in the NADH formed. Taken together, a catalytic mechanism for the overall enantiospecific conversion of (-)-secoisolariciresinol into (-)-matairesinol is proposed.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A recent in silico analysis revealed that the Arabidopsis genome has 14 genes annotated as putative 4-coumarate:CoA ligase isoforms or homologues. Of these, 11 were selected for detailed functional analysis in vitro, using all known possible phenylpropanoid pathway intermediates (p-coumaric, caffeic, ferulic, 5-hydroxyferulic and sinapic acids), as well as cinnamic acid. Of the 11 recombinant proteins so obtained, four were catalytically active in vitro, with fairly broad substrate specificities, confirming that the 4CL gene family in Arabidopsis has only four members. This finding is in agreement with our previous phylogenetic analyses, and again illustrates the need for comprehensive characterization of all putative 4CLs, rather than piecemeal analysis of selected gene members. All 11 proteins were expressed with a C-terminal His6-tag and functionally characterized, with one, At4CL1, expressed in native form for kinetic property comparisons. Of the 11 putative His6-tagged 4CLs, isoform At4CL1 best utilized p-coumaric, caffeic, ferulic and 5-hydroxyferulic acids as substrates, whereas At4CL2 readily transformed p-coumaric and caffeic acids into the corresponding CoA esters, while ferulic and 5-hydroxyferulic acids were converted quite poorly. At4CL3 also displayed broad substrate specificity efficiently converting p-coumaric, caffeic and ferulic acids into their CoA esters, whereas 5-hydroxyferulic acid was not as effectively utilized. By contrast, while At4CL5 is the only isoform capable of ligating sinapic acid, the two preferred substrates were 5-hydroxyferulic and caffeic acids. Indeed, both At4CL1 and At4CL5 most effectively utilized 5-hydroxyferulic acid with kenz approximately 10-fold higher than that for At4CL2 and At4CL3. The remaining seven 4CL-like homologues had no measurable catalytic activity (at approximately 100 microg protein concentrations), again bringing into sharp focus both the advantages to, and the limitations of, current database annotations, and the need to unambiguously demonstrate true enzyme function. Lastly, although At4CL5 is able to convert both 5-hydroxyferulic and sinapic acids into the corresponding CoA esters, the physiological significance of the latter observation in vitro was in question, i.e. particularly since other 4CL isoforms can effectively convert 5-hydroxyferulic acid into 5-hydroxyferuloyl CoA. Hence, homozygous lines containing T-DNA or enhancer trap inserts (knockouts) for 4cl5 were selected by screening, with Arabidopsis stem sections from each mutant line subjected to detailed analyses for both lignin monomeric compositions and contents, and sinapate/sinapyl alcohol derivative formation, at different stages of growth and development until maturation. The data so obtained revealed that this "knockout" had no significant effect on either lignin content or monomeric composition, or on the accumulation of sinapate/sinapyl alcohol derivatives. The results from the present study indicate that formation of syringyl lignins and sinapate/sinapyl alcohol derivatives result primarily from methylation of 5-hydroxyferuloyl CoA or derivatives thereof rather than sinapic acid ligation. That is, no specific physiological role for At4CL5 in direct sinapic acid CoA ligation could be identified. How the putative overlapping 4CL metabolic networks are in fact organized in planta at various stages of growth and development will be the subject of future inquiry.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Arabidopsis genome sequencing in 2000 gave to science the first blueprint of a vascular plant. Its successful completion also prompted the US National Science Foundation to launch the Arabidopsis 2010 initiative, the goal of which is to identify the function of each gene by 2010. In this study, an exhaustive analysis of The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) and The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) databases, together with all currently compiled EST sequence data, was carried out in order to determine to what extent the various metabolic networks from phenylalanine ammonia lyase (PAL) to the monolignols were organized and/or could be predicted. In these databases, there are some 65 genes which have been annotated as encoding putative enzymatic steps in monolignol biosynthesis, although many of them have only very low homology to monolignol pathway genes of known function in other plant systems. Our detailed analysis revealed that presently only 13 genes (two PALs, a cinnamate-4-hydroxylase, a p-coumarate-3-hydroxylase, a ferulate-5-hydroxylase, three 4-coumarate-CoA ligases, a cinnamic acid O-methyl transferase, two cinnamoyl-CoA reductases) and two cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenases can be classified as having a bona fide (definitive) function; the remaining 52 genes currently have undetermined physiological roles. The EST database entries for this particular set of genes also provided little new insight into how the monolignol pathway was organized in the different tissues and organs, this being perhaps a consequence of both limitations in how tissue samples were collected and in the incomplete nature of the EST collections. This analysis thus underscores the fact that even with genomic sequencing, presumed to provide the entire suite of putative genes in the monolignol-forming pathway, a very large effort needs to be conducted to establish actual catalytic roles (including enzyme versatility), as well as the physiological function(s) for each member of the (multi)gene families present and the metabolic networks that are operative. Additionally, one key to identifying physiological functions for many of these (and other) unknown genes, and their corresponding metabolic networks, awaits the development of technologies to comprehensively study molecular processes at the single cell level in particular tissues and organs, in order to establish the actual metabolic context.