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Plant Cell. May 1998; 10(5): 721–740.
PMCID: PMC144024

Engineering secondary metabolism in maize cells by ectopic expression of transcription factors


Manipulation of plant natural product biosynthesis through genetic engineering is an attractive but technically challenging goal. Here, we demonstrate that different secondary metabolites can be produced in cultured maize cells by ectopic expression of the appropriate regulatory genes. Cell lines engineered to express the maize transcriptional activators C1 and R accumulate two cyanidin derivatives, which are similar to the predominant anthocyanin found in differentiated plant tissues. In contrast, cell lines that express P accumulate various 3-deoxy flavonoids. Unexpectedly, P-expressing cells in culture also accumulate phenylpropanoids and green fluorescent compounds that are targeted to different subcellular compartments. Two endogenous biosynthetic genes (c2 and a1, encoding chalcone synthase and flavanone/dihydroflavonol reductase, respectively) are independently activated by ectopic expression of either P or C1/R, and there is a dose-response relationship between the transcript level of P and the degree to which c2 or a1 is expressed. Our results support a simple model showing how the gene encoding P may act as a quantitative trait locus controlling insecticidal C-glycosyl flavone level in maize silks, and they suggest how p1 might confer a selective advantage against insect predation in maize.

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Articles from The Plant Cell are provided here courtesy of American Society of Plant Biologists


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