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Plant Cell. 2001 Jan;13(1):73-88.

Downregulation of caffeic acid 3-O-methyltransferase and caffeoyl CoA 3-O-methyltransferase in transgenic alfalfa. impacts on lignin structure and implications for the biosynthesis of G and S lignin.

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Plant Biology Division, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma 73401, USA.


Transgenic alfalfa plants were generated harboring caffeic acid 3-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and caffeoyl CoA 3-O-methyltransferase (CCOMT) cDNA sequences under control of the bean phenylalanine ammonia-lyase PAL2 promoter. Strong downregulation of COMT resulted in decreased lignin content, a reduction in total guaiacyl (G) lignin units, a near total loss of syringyl (S) units in monomeric and dimeric lignin degradation products, and appearance of low levels of 5-hydroxy guaiacyl units and a novel dimer. No soluble monolignol precursors accumulated. In contrast, strong downregulation of CCOMT led to reduced lignin levels, a reduction in G units without reduction in S units, and increases in beta-5 linked dimers of G units. Accumulation of soluble caffeic acid beta-d-glucoside occurred only in CCOMT downregulated plants. The results suggest that CCOMT does not significantly contribute to the 3-O-methylation step in S lignin biosynthesis in alfalfa and that there is redundancy with respect to the 3-O-methylation reaction of G lignin biosynthesis. COMT is unlikely to catalyze the in vivo methylation of caffeic acid during lignin biosynthesis.

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