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Plant Physiol. 2009 Nov;151(3):1294-303. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.142539. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Discovery and characterization of a novel lachrymatory factor synthase in Petiveria alliacea and its influence on alliinase-mediated formation of biologically active organosulfur compounds.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, New York 12222, USA.


A novel lachrymatory factor synthase (LFS) was isolated and purified from the roots of the Amazonian medicinal plant Petiveria alliacea. The enzyme is a heterotetrameric glycoprotein comprised of two alpha-subunits (68.8 kD each), one gamma-subunit (22.5 kD), and one delta-subunit (11.9 kD). The two alpha-subunits are glycosylated and connected by a disulfide bridge. The LFS has an isoelectric point of 5.2. It catalyzes the formation of a sulfine lachrymator, (Z)-phenylmethanethial S-oxide, only in the presence of P. alliacea alliinase and its natural substrate, S-benzyl-l-cysteine sulfoxide (petiveriin). Depending on its concentration relative to that of P. alliacea alliinase, the LFS sequesters, to varying degrees, the sulfenic acid intermediate formed by alliinase-mediated breakdown of petiveriin. At LFS:alliinase of 5:1, LFS sequesters all of the sulfenic acid formed by alliinase action on petiveriin, and converts it entirely to (Z)-phenylmethanethial S-oxide. However, starting at LFS:alliinase of 5:2, the LFS is unable to sequester all of the sulfenic acid produced by the alliinase, with the result that sulfenic acid that escapes the action of the LFS condenses with loss of water to form S-benzyl phenylmethanethiosulfinate (petivericin). The results show that the LFS and alliinase function in tandem, with the alliinase furnishing the sulfenic acid substrate on which the LFS acts. The results also show that the LFS modulates the formation of biologically active thiosulfinates that are downstream of the alliinase in a manner dependent upon the relative concentrations of the LFS and the alliinase. These observations suggest that manipulation of LFS-to-alliinase ratios in plants displaying this system may provide a means by which to rationally modify organosulfur small molecule profiles to obtain desired flavor and/or odor signatures, or increase the presence of desirable biologically active small molecules.

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