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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2003 Mar 15;411(2):267-76.

cDNA isolation, functional expression, and characterization of (+)-alpha-pinene synthase and (-)-alpha-pinene synthase from loblolly pine (Pinus taeda): stereocontrol in pinene biosynthesis.

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


The complex mixture of monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and diterpenes that comprises oleoresin provides the primary defense of conifers against bark beetles and their associated fungal pathogens. Monoterpene synthases produce the turpentine fraction of oleoresin, which allows mobilization of the diterpene resin acid component (rosin) and is also toxic toward invading insects; this is particularly the case for alpha-pinene, a prominent bicyclic monoterpene of pine turpentine. The stereochemistry of alpha-pinene is a critical determinant of host defense capability and has implications for host selection, insect pheromone biosynthesis, and tritrophic-level interactions. Pines produce both enantiomers of alpha-pinene, which appear to arise through antipodal reaction mechanisms by distinct enzymes. Using a cDNA library constructed with mRNA from flushing needles of loblolly pine (Pinus taeda), we employed a homology-based cloning strategy to isolate, and confirm by functional expression, the genes encoding (+)-(3R:5R)-alpha-pinene synthase, (-)-(3S:5S)-alpha-pinene synthase, and several other terpene synthases. The pinene synthases, which produce mirror-image products, share only 66% amino acid identity (72% similarity) but are similar in general properties to other monoterpene synthases of gymnosperms. The stereochemical control of monoterpene cyclization reactions, the evolution of "antipodal" enzymes, and the implications of turpentine composition in ecological interactions are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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