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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001 Jun 15;390(2):279-86.

Demonstration that menthofuran synthase of mint (Mentha) is a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase: cloning, functional expression, and characterization of the responsible gene.

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Department of Plant Biology, University of Turin, viale P.A. Mattioli 25, I-10125Turin, Italy.


(+)-Menthofuran is an undesirable monoterpenoid component of peppermint (Mentha x piperita) essential oil that is derived from the alpha,beta-unsaturated ketone (+)-pulegone. Microsomal preparations, from the oil gland secretory cells of a high (+)-menthofuran-producing chemotype of Mentha pulegium, transform (+)-pulegone to (+)-menthofuran in the presence of NADPH and molecular oxygen, implying that menthofuran is synthesized by a mechanism analogous to that of mammalian liver cytochrome P450s involving the hydroxylation of the syn-methyl group of (+)-pulegone, spontaneous intramolecular cyclization to the hemiketal, and dehydration to the furan. An abundant cytochrome P450 clone from a peppermint oil gland cell cDNA library was functionally expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Escherichia coli and shown to encode the (+)-menthofuran synthase (i.e., (+)-pulegone-9-hydroxylase). The full-length cDNA contains 1479 nucleotides, and encodes a protein of 493 amino acid residues of molecular weight 55,360, which bears all of the anticipated primary structural elements of a cytochrome P450 and most closely resembles (35% identity) a cytochrome P450 monoterpene hydroxylase, (+)-limonene-3-hydroxylase, from the same source. The availability of this gene permits transgenic manipulation of peppermint to improve the quality of the derived essential oil.

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