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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 19;285(47):36322-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.164806. Epub 2010 Sep 14.

Roles for stress-inducible lambda glutathione transferases in flavonoid metabolism in plants as identified by ligand fishing.

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Centre for Bioactive Chemistry, School of Biological & Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, Durham DH1 3LE, United Kingdom.


The glutathione transferases (GSTs) of plants are a superfamily of abundant enzymes whose roles in endogenous metabolism are largely unknown. For example, the lambda class of GSTs (GSTLs) have members that are selectively induced by chemical stress treatments and based on their enzyme chemistry are predicted to have roles in redox homeostasis. However, using conventional approaches these functions have yet to be determined. To address this, recombinant GSTLs from wheat and Arabidopsis were tagged with a Strep tag and after affinity-immobilization, incubated with extracts from Arabidopsis, tobacco, and wheat. Bound ligands were then recovered by solvent extraction and identified by mass spectrometry (MS). With the wheat enzyme TaGSTL1, the ligand profiles obtained with in vitro extracts from tobacco closely matched those observed after the protein had been expressed in planta, demonstrating that these associations were physiologically representative. The stress-inducible TaGSTL1 was found to selectively recognize flavonols (e.g. taxifolin; K(d) = 25 nM), with this binding being dependent upon S-glutathionylation of an active site cysteine. In the case of the wheat extracts, this selectivity in ligand recognitions lead to the detection of flavonols that had not been previously described in this cereal. Subsequent in vitro assays showed that the co-binding of flavonols, such as quercetin, to the thiolated TaGSTL1 represented an intermediate step in the reduction of the respective S-glutathionylated quinone derivatives to yield free flavonols. These results suggest a novel role for GSTLs in maintaining the flavonoid pool under stress conditions.

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