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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001 Aug 15;392(2):263-9.

Cloning and characterization of Ginkgo biloba levopimaradiene synthase which catalyzes the first committed step in ginkgolide biosynthesis.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Rice University, Houston, Texas 77005, USA.


Levopimaradiene synthase, which catalyzes the initial cyclization step in ginkgolide biosynthesis, was cloned and functionally characterized. A Ginkgo biloba cDNA library was prepared from seedling roots and a probe was amplified using primers corresponding to conserved gymnosperm terpene synthase sequences. Colony hybridization and rapid amplification of cDNA ends yielded a full-length clone encoding a predicted protein (873 amino acids, 100,289 Da) similar to known gymnosperm diterpene synthases. The sequence includes a putative N-terminal plastid transit peptide and three aspartate-rich regions. The full-length protein expressed in Escherichia coli cyclized geranylgeranyl diphosphate to levopimaradiene, which was identical to a synthetic standard by GC/MS analysis. Removing 60 or 79 N-terminal residues increased levopimaradiene production, but a 128-residue N-terminal deletion lacked detectable activity. This is the first cloned ginkgolide biosynthetic gene and the first in vitro observation of an isolated ginkgolide biosynthetic enzyme.

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