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Plant Cell. 1999 May;11(5):887-900.

Multicellular compartmentation of catharanthus roseus alkaloid biosynthesis predicts intercellular translocation of a pathway intermediate

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Institut de Recherche en Biologie Vegetale, Departement de Sciences Biologiques, Universite de Montreal, 4101 rue Sherbrooke est, Montreal, Quebec H1X 2B2, Canada.


In situ RNA hybridization and immunocytochemistry were used to establish the cellular distribution of monoterpenoid indole alkaloid biosynthesis in Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). Tryptophan decarboxylase (TDC) and strictosidine synthase (STR1), which are involved in the biosynthesis of the central intermediate strictosidine, and desacetoxyvindoline 4-hydroxylase (D4H) and deacetylvindoline 4-O-acetyltransferase (DAT), which are involved in the terminal steps of vindoline biosynthesis, were localized. tdc and str1 mRNAs were present in the epidermis of stems, leaves, and flower buds, whereas they appeared in most protoderm and cortical cells around the apical meristem of root tips. In marked contrast, d4h and dat mRNAs were associated with the laticifer and idioblast cells of leaves, stems, and flower buds. Immunocytochemical localization for TDC, D4H, and DAT proteins confirmed the differential localization of early and late stages of vindoline biosynthesis. Therefore, we concluded that the elaboration of the major leaf alkaloids involves the participation of at least two cell types and requires the intercellular translocation of a pathway intermediate. A basipetal gradient of expression in maturing leaves also was shown for all four genes by in situ RNA hybridization studies and by complementary studies with dissected leaves, suggesting that expression of the vindoline pathway occurs transiently during early leaf development. These results partially explain why attempts to produce vindoline by cell culture technology have failed.

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