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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1992 Mar;293(2):320-32.

Biosynthesis of rice phytoalexins: identification of putative diterpene hydrocarbon precursors.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Los Angeles 90024-1569.


A procedure for the preparation of a cell-free enzyme solution from rice leaves capable of catalyzing the biosynthesis of diterpene hydrocarbons from geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate or copalyl pyrophosphate as added substrates has been developed. The rates of synthesis of a group of "pimaradiene-like" diterpene hydrocarbons are about 75-fold higher with geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate as substrate and about 8-fold higher with copalyl pyrophosphate as substrate in comparison with extracts from untreated control leaves. The maximum rate of diterpene hydrocarbon biosynthesis is seen in extracts prepared at 40 h after uv irradiation. Five diterpene hydrocarbons (compounds A-E) were present in the hydrocarbon fraction biosynthesized from [3H]geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate in large-scale incubation mixtures prepared from uv-treated rice leaves. Three of these diterpenes were identified as ent-kaur-16-ene (B), ent-sandaracopimara-8(14), 15-diene (D), and 9 beta H-pimara-7,15-diene (E) from GC retention times and GC-MS spectral characteristics in comparison with those of authentic reference compounds. Compound C has spectral characteristics analogous to those of a pimaradiene, but a specific structural assignment from the data available was not possible. Similar incubations with [3H]copalyl pyrophosphate as the substrate and enzyme prepared from uv-treated rice leaves produced ent-kaurene (B), ent-sandaracopimara-8(14),15-diene (D), and compound C, but not 9 beta H-pimara-7,15-diene (E). These results are consistent with a proposed biosynthetic scheme in which 9 beta H-pimara-7,15-diene serves as a precursor of the momilactone family, and ent-sandaracopimara-8(14),15-diene serves as a precursor of the oryzalexin family of rice phytoalexins. ent-Kaurene was the only diterpene detected in incubation mixtures containing enzyme extract from untreated rice leaves and [3H]copalyl pyrophosphate as the substrate. It is suggested that kaurene biosynthesis in rice leaves is probably associated with gibberellin biosynthesis and the regulation of vegetative growth rather than stress metabolism. The diterpene cyclization enzymes in extracts of uv-treated rice leaves show only a relatively modest inhibition by the plant growth retardants AMO-1618 and Phosfon D. No evidence was obtained for the subcellular localization of these cyclization enzymes in organellar preparations; it is tentatively concluded that the enzymes are present predominantly in the extraorganellar cytoplasm of rice leaves.

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