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Anal Biochem. 2012 Mar 1;422(1):33-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ab.2011.12.037. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Nonradioactive assay for detecting isoprenyl diphosphate synthase activity in crude plant extracts using liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry.

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


Terpenoids form the largest class of plant metabolites involved in primary and secondary metabolism. Isoprenyl diphosphate synthases (IDSs) catalyze the condensation of the C(5) terpenoid building blocks, isopentenyl diphosphate and dimethylallyl diphosphate, to form geranyl diphosphate (C(10)), farnesyl diphosphate (C(15)), and geranylgeranyl diphosphate (C(20)). These branch point reactions control the flow of metabolites that act as precursors to each of the major terpene classes-monoterpenes, sequiterpenes, and diterpenes, respectively. Thus accurate and easily performed assays of IDS enzyme activity are critical to increase our knowledge about the regulation of terpene biosynthesis. Here we describe a new and sensitive nonradioactive method for carrying out IDS assays using liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to detect the short-chain prenyl diphosphate products directly without dephosphorylation. Furthermore, we were able to separate cisoid and transoid isomers of both C(10) enzyme products (geranyl diphosphate and neryl diphosphate) and three C(15) products [(E,E)-, (Z,E)-, and (Z,Z)-farnesyl diphosphate]. By applying the method to crude protein extracts from various organs of Arabidopsis thaliana, Nicotiana attenuata, Populus trichocarpa, and Picea abies, we could determine their IDS activity in a reproducible fashion.

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