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J Chem Ecol. 2017 Dec;43(11-12):1097-1108. doi: 10.1007/s10886-017-0903-3. Epub 2017 Nov 11.

Exploring genes involved in benzoic acid biosynthesis in the Populus davidiana transcriptome and their transcriptional activity upon methyl jasmonate treatment.

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Department of Forest Resources, College of Forest and Environmental Sciences, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, 200-701, South Korea.
Division of Forest Biotechnology, Korea Forest Research Institute, Suwon, 441-847, South Korea.
Department of Forest Resources, College of Forest and Environmental Sciences, Kangwon National University, Chuncheon, 200-701, South Korea.


Benzoic acids (BAs) are important structural elements in a wide variety of essential compounds and natural products, and play crucial roles in plant fitness. BA is a precursor of diverse benzenoid compounds, including the hormone salicylic acid (SA) and the aglycone moiety of salicin, which is particularly important in the Salicaceae family. The biosynthetic pathways leading to BA formation in plants are largely unknown. Recently, the CoA-dependent β-oxidative BA biosynthesis pathway, which occurs in peroxisomes, has been characterized in petunia. The core of this pathway is cinnamic acid → cinnamoyl-CoA → 3-hydroxy-3-phenylpropanoyl-CoA → 3-oxo-3-phenylpropanoyl-CoA → benzoyl-CoA. Here, we used 454 pyrosequencing to analyze the transcriptome of Populus davidiana and isolate putative genes involved in BA biosynthesis. De novo assembly generated 57,322 unique sequences, including 15,217 contigs and 42,105 singletons. From the unique sequences, we selected six genes exhibiting high similarity to genes encoding L-phenylalanine ammonia lyase, cinnamate:CoA ligase, cinnamoyl-CoA hydratase-dehydrogenase, 3-ketoacyl-CoA thiolase, benzoyl-CoA:benzyl alcohol O-benzoyltransferase, and benzaldehyde dehydrogenase. Each of these enzymes might be involved in BA biosynthesis. Real-time PCR (qPCR) analysis revealed that these six genes were highly transcribed in the aerial organs of P. davidiana, particularly in leaves. Treating the leaves of in vitro cultured plants with methyl jasmonate (MeJA) strongly enhanced the mRNA accumulation of all 6 genes, and this treatment also clearly enhanced the accumulation of BA, SA, salicyl alcohol, benzyl alcohol, benzyl benzoate, and benzaldehyde but not salicin. Our study shows that P. davidiana may possess a CoA-dependent β-oxidative BA synthesis pathway. We also identified a relationship between the transcription of these genes and the accumulation of benzenoids, including BA and SA, which are highly responsive to the defense signaling molecule (MeJA).


Benzoic acid biosynthesis; Populus davidiana; Transcriptome analysis; de novo sequencing

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