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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2002 Sep 1;405(1):112-21.

Molecular cloning and characterization of a new linalool synthase.

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Institute of Biological Chemistry, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-6340, USA.


Mentha citrata Ehrh. (bergamot mint; Lamiaceae) produces an essential oil containing only the acyclic monoterpenol (-)-3R-linalool and its acetate ester. A cloning strategy based upon the assumption that the responsible monoterpene synthase would resemble, in sequence, monoterpene cyclases from this plant family yielded a cDNA encoding the (--)-3R-linalool synthase. The nucleotide sequence of this monoterpene synthase is similar to those of several monoterpene cyclases from the mint (Lamiaceae) family (62-72% identity), but differs substantially from that of 3S-linalool synthase from Clarkia (41% identity; this composite gene appears to be of recent origin) and from that of 3R-linalool synthase from Artemisia (52% identity; the functional role of this gene is uncertain). Heterologous expression in Escherichia coli of a truncated version of the cDNA (in which the plastidial transit peptide was deleted) allowed purification and characterization of the enzyme, which was shown to possess most properties similar to other known monoterpene cyclases, but with a K(m) value for the natural substrate, geranyl diphosphate, of 56 microM with k(cat) of 0.83 s(-1). These kinetic constants for this 3R-linalool synthase are higher than those of any defined monoterpene cyclase, but the kinetic efficiency does not approach that reported for the 3S-linalool synthase from Clarkia. Although linalyl diphosphate is an enzyme-bound intermediate of monoterpene cyclase reactions, this tertiary allylic isomer of the geranyl substrate is not an efficient precursor of linalool with the M. citrata synthase. Modeling of the active site of this linalool synthase from Mentha and comparison to the modeled active sites of phylogenetically related monoterpene cyclases revealed structural differences in the binding of the diphosphate moiety which initiates the ionization step of the electrophilic reaction sequence and in the access of water to the active site to permit stereoselective quenching of the initially formed carbocationic intermediate to produce 3R-linalool.

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