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Nat Chem Biol. 2010 Apr;6(4):273-5. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.317. Epub 2010 Mar 14.

Dioxygenases catalyze the O-demethylation steps of morphine biosynthesis in opium poppy.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Two previously undetected enzymes involved in morphine biosynthesis and unique among plants to opium poppy have been identified as non-heme dioxygenases, in contrast to the functionally analogous cytochrome P450s found in mammals. We used functional genomics to isolate thebaine 6-O-demethylase (T6ODM) and codeine O-demethylase (CODM), the only known 2-oxoglutarate/Fe(II)-dependent dioxygenases that catalyze O-demethylation. Virus-induced gene silencing of T6ODM and CODM in opium poppy efficiently blocked metabolism at thebaine and codeine, respectively.

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