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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 Sep 15;369(2):213-22.

Cloning, expression, and characterization of epi-cedrol synthase, a sesquiterpene cyclase from Artemisia annua L.

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  • 1Department of Plant Biochemistry, Lund University, Lund, S-22100, Sweden.


Sesquiterpene cyclases (synthases) catalyze the conversion of the isoprenoid intermediate farnesyl diphosphate to various sesquiterpene structural types. In plants, many sesquiterpenes are produced as defensive chemicals (phytoalexins) or mediators of chemical communication (i.e., pollinator attractants). A number of sesquiterpene synthases are present in Artemisia annua L. (annual wormwood). We have isolated a cDNA clone encoding one of these, epi-cedrol synthase. This clone contains a 1641-bp open reading frame coding for 547 amino acids (63.5 kDa), a 38-bp 5'-untranslated end, and a 272-bp 3'-untranslated sequence. The deduced amino acid sequence was 32 to 43% identical with the sequences of other known sesquiterpene cyclases from angiosperms. When expressed in Escherichia coli, the recombinant enzyme catalyzed the formation of both olefinic (3%) and oxygenated (97%) sesquiterpenes from farnesyl diphosphate. GC-MS analysis identified the olefins as alpha-cedrene (57% of the olefins), beta-cedrene (13%), (E)-beta-farnesene (5%), alpha-acoradiene (1%), (E)-alpha-bisabolene (8%), and three unknown olefins (16%) and the oxygenated sesquiterpenes (97% of total sesquiterpene generated, exclusive of farnesol and nerolidol) as cedrol (4%) and epi-cedrol (96%). epi-Cedrol synthase was not active with geranylgeranyl diphosphate as substrate, whereas geranyl diphosphate was converted to monoterpenes by the recombinant enzyme at a rate of about 15% of that observed with farnesyl diphosphate as substrate. The monoterpene olefin products are limonene (45%), terpinolene (42%), gamma-terpinene (8%), myrcene (5%), and alpha-terpinene (2%); a small amount of the monoterpene alcohol terpinen-4-ol is also produced. The pH optimum for the recombinant enzyme is 8.5-9.0 (with farnesyl diphosphate as substrate) and the K(m) values for farnesyl diphosphate are 0.4 and 1.3 microM at pH 7. 0 and 9.0, respectively. The K(m) for Mg(2+) is 80 microM at pH 7.0 and 9.0.

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