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Planta. 2016 Sep;244(3):725-36. doi: 10.1007/s00425-016-2542-2. Epub 2016 May 4.

Benzenoid biosynthesis in the flowers of Eriobotrya japonica: molecular cloning and functional characterization of p-methoxybenzoic acid carboxyl methyltransferase.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, 753-8515, Japan.
Department of Biological Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, Yamaguchi, 753-8515, Japan.
Department of Research and Development, Kazusa DNA Research Institute, Chiba, 292-0818, Japan.
Institute for Chemical Research, Kyoto University, Gokasho, Uji, Kyoto, 611-0011, Japan.


p -Methoxybenzoic acid carboxyl methyltransferase (MBMT) was isolated from loquat flowers. MBMT displayed high similarity to jasmonic acid carboxyl methyltransferases, but exhibited high catalytic activity to form methyl p -methoxybenzoate from p -methoxybenzoic acid. Volatile benzenoids impart the characteristic fragrance of loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) flowers. Here, we report that loquat produces methyl p-methoxybenzoate, along with other benzenoids, as the flowers bloom. Although the adaxial side of flower petals is covered with hairy trichomes, the trichomes are not the site of volatile benzenoid formation. Here we identified four carboxyl methyltransferase (EjMT1 to EjMT4) genes from loquat and functionally characterized EjMT1 which we found to encode a p-methoxybenzoic acid carboxyl methyltransferase (MBMT); an enzyme capable of converting p-methoxybenzoic acid to methyl p-methoxybenzoate via methylation of the carboxyl group. We found that transcript levels of MBMT continually increased throughout the flower development with peak expression occurring in fully opened flowers. Recombinant MBMT protein expressed in Escherichia coli showed the highest substrate preference toward p-methoxybenzoic acid with an apparent K m value of 137.3 µM. In contrast to benzoic acid carboxyl methyltransferase (BAMT) and benzoic acid/salicylic acid carboxyl methyltransferase, MBMT also displayed activity towards both benzoic acid and jasmonic acid. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that loquat MBMT forms a monophyletic group with jasmonic acid carboxyl methyltransferases (JMTs) from other plant species. Our results suggest that plant enzymes with same BAMT activity have evolved independently.


Carboxyl methyltransferase; Loquat; SABATH; Volatile benzenoids

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