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Plant Cell. 2010 Jan;22(1):273-92. doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.071449. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Jasmonate and ppHsystemin regulate key Malonylation steps in the biosynthesis of 17-Hydroxygeranyllinalool Diterpene Glycosides, an abundant and effective direct defense against herbivores in Nicotiana attenuata.

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Department of Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany 07745.


We identified 11 17-hydroxygeranyllinalool diterpene glycosides (HGL-DTGs) that occur in concentrations equivalent to starch (mg/g fresh mass) in aboveground tissues of coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata) and differ in their sugar moieties and malonyl sugar esters (0-2). Concentrations of HGL-DTGs, particularly malonylated compounds, are highest in young and reproductive tissues. Within a tissue, herbivore elicitation changes concentrations and biosynthetic kinetics of individual compounds. Using stably transformed N. attenuata plants silenced in jasmonate production and perception, or production of N. attenuata Hyp-rich glycopeptide systemin precursor by RNA interference, we identified malonylation as the key biosynthetic step regulated by herbivory and jasmonate signaling. We stably silenced N. attenuata geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (ggpps) to reduce precursors for the HGL-DTG skeleton, resulting in reduced total HGL-DTGs and greater vulnerability to native herbivores in the field. Larvae of the specialist tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) grew up to 10 times as large on ggpps silenced plants, and silenced plants suffered significantly more damage from herbivores in N. attenuata's native habitat than did wild-type plants. We propose that high concentrations of HGL-DTGs effectively defend valuable tissues against herbivores and that malonylation may play an important role in regulating the distribution and storage of HGL-DTGs in plants.

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