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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Nov 15;383(2):178-84.

Amorpha-4,11-diene synthase of Artemisia annua: cDNA isolation and bacterial expression of a terpene synthase involved in artemisinin biosynthesis.

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School of Agricultural Biotechnology and the Research Center for New Biomaterials in Agriculture, Seoul National University, Suwon, Korea.


Artemisia annua, an indigenous plant to Korea, contains an antimalarial sesquiterpene, artemisinin. The first committed step of artemisinin biosynthesis is the cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate by a sesquiterpene synthase to produce an amorphane-type ring system. The aims of this research were to molecularly clone and express amorpha-4,11-diene synthase for metabolic engineering. PCR amplification of genomic DNA with a pair of primers, designed from the conserved regions of sesquiterpene synthases of several plants, produced a 184-bp DNA fragment. This fragment was used in Northern blot analysis as a probe, showing approximately 2.2 kb of a single band. Its sequence information was used to produce 2106 bp of a full-length cDNA sequence including 1641 bp of open reading frame for 546 amino acids (kcs12) through a rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE). The deduced amino acid sequence displayed 36% identity with 5-epi-aristolochene synthase of Nicotiana tabacum. A soluble fraction of Escherichia coli harboring kcs12 catalyzed the cyclization of farnesyl diphosphate to produce a sesquiterpene, which was identified through GC-MS analysis as amorpha-4,11-diene.

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