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Plant J. 2010 Nov;64(4):618-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04355.x. Epub 2010 Oct 26.

Biological origins of normal-chain hydrocarbons: a pathway model based on cuticular wax analyses of maize silks.

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1
Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.

Abstract

Long-chain normal hydrocarbons (e.g. alkanes, alkenes and dienes) are rare biological molecules and their biosynthetic origins are obscure. Detailed analyses of the surface lipids that accumulate on maize silks have revealed that these hydrocarbons constitute a large portion (>90%) of the cuticular waxes that coat this organ, which contrasts with the situation on maize seedling leaves, where the cuticular waxes are primary alcohols and aldehydes. The normal hydrocarbons that occur on silks are part of a homologous series of alkanes, alkenes and dienes of odd-number carbon atoms, ranging between 19 and 33 in number. The alkenes and dienes consist of a homologous series, each of which has double bonds situated at defined positions of the alkyl chains: alkenes have double bonds situated at the sixth, ninth or 12th positions, and dienes have double bonds situated at the sixth and ninth, or ninth and twelfth positions. Finding a homologous series of unsaturated aldehydes and fatty acids suggests that these alkenes and dienes are biosynthesized by a series of parallel pathways of fatty-acid elongation and desaturation reactions, which are followed by sequential reduction and decarbonylation. In addition, the silk cuticular waxes contain metabolically related unsaturated long-chain methylketones, which probably arise via a decarboxylation mechanism. Finally, metabolite profiling analyses of the cuticular waxes of two maize inbred lines (B73 and Mo17), and their genetic hybrids, have provided insights into the genetic control network of these biosynthetic pathways, and that the genetic regulation of these pathways display best-parent heterotic effects.

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