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Planta. 1998 Feb;204(2):234-41.

Regulatory role of microsomal 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase for shikonin biosynthesis in Lithospermum erythrorhizon cell suspension cultures.

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  • 1Pharmazeutische Biologie, Pharmazeutisches Institut, Universität Tübingen, Germany.


The carbon skeleton of the naphthoquinone pigment shikonin, which is produced in Lithospermum erythrorhizon Sieb. et Zucc. cell-suspension cultures, is partly derived from the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway. The requirement of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGR, EC, a key enzyme of the mevalonate route to isoprenoids, for shikonin synthesis was investigated. Conserved regions of sequences from plant HMGR genes were used to design polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primers for the cloning of a cDNA fragment from L. erythrorhizon. The resulting 443-bp clone was used as a probe for Northern analyses and hybridized to an mRNA of approx. 2.5 kb. Under shikonin-producing conditions, microsomal HMGR enzyme activity as well as mRNA level closely correlated with the accumulation of shikonin derivatives. White light, which inhibits shikonin formation, was shown to strongly suppress HMGR gene expression. The results presented here indicate that HMGR plays a significant role in the regulation of shikonin biosynthesis and that the control appears to act at the transcriptional level.

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