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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Jun 9;95(12):6756-61.

Terpenoid-based defenses in conifers: cDNA cloning, characterization, and functional expression of wound-inducible (E)-alpha-bisabolene synthase from grand fir (Abies grandis).

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  • 1Institute of Biological Chemistry and Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6340, USA.


(E)-alpha-Bisabolene synthase is one of two wound-inducible sesquiterpene synthases of grand fir (Abies grandis), and the olefin product of this cyclization reaction is considered to be the precursor in Abies species of todomatuic acid, juvabione, and related insect juvenile hormone mimics. A cDNA encoding (E)-alpha-bisabolene synthase was isolated from a wound-induced grand fir stem library by a PCR-based strategy and was functionally expressed in Escherichia coli and shown to produce (E)-alpha-bisabolene as the sole product from farnesyl diphosphate. The expressed synthase has a deduced size of 93.8 kDa and a pI of 5. 03, exhibits other properties typical of sesquiterpene synthases, and resembles in sequence other terpenoid synthases with the exception of a large amino-terminal insertion corresponding to Pro81-Val296. Biosynthetically prepared (E)-alpha-[3H]bisabolene was converted to todomatuic acid in induced grand fir cells, and the time course of appearance of bisabolene synthase mRNA was shown by Northern hybridization to lag behind that of mRNAs responsible for production of induced oleoresin monoterpenes. These results suggest that induced (E)-alpha-bisabolene biosynthesis constitutes part of a defense response targeted to insect herbivores, and possibly fungal pathogens, that is distinct from induced oleoresin monoterpene production.

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