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Plant Mol Biol. 2003 Jan;51(2):153-64.

Modulation of berberine bridge enzyme levels in transgenic root cultures of California poppy alters the accumulation of benzophenanthridine alkaloids.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N. W, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada.


California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.) root cultures produce a variety of benzophenanthridine alkaloids, such as sanguinarine, chelirubine and macarpine, with potent biological activity. Sense and antisense constructs of genes encoding the berberine bridge enzyme (BBE) were introduced into California poppy root cultures. Transgenic roots expressing BBE from opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) displayed higher levels of BBE mRNA, protein and enzyme activity, and increased accumulation of benzophenanthridine alkaloids compared to control roots transformed with a beta-glucuronidase gene. In contrast, roots transformed with an antisense-BBE construct from California poppy had lower levels of BBE mRNA and enzyme activity, and reduced benzophenanthridine alkaloid accumulation, relative to controls. Pathway intermediates were not detected in any transgenic root lines. Suppression of benzophenanthridine alkaloid biosynthesis using antisense-BBE also reduced the growth rate of the root cultures. Two-dimensional 1H-NMR spectroscopy showed no difference in the abundance of carbohydrate metabolites in the various transgenic roots lines. However, transformed roots with low levels of benzophenanthridine alkaloids contained larger cellular pools of certain amino acids compared to controls. In contrast, cellular pools of several amino acids were reduced in transgenic roots with elevated benzophenanthridine alkaloid levels relative to controls. The relative abundance of tyrosine, from which benzophenanthridine alkaloids are derived, was only marginally altered in all transgenic root lines; thus, altering metabolic flux through benzophenanthridine alkaloid pathways can affect cellular pools of specific amino acids. Consideration of such interactions is important for the design of metabolic engineering strategies that target benzophenanthridine alkaloid biosynthesis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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