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J Exp Bot. 2018 Aug 14;69(18):4249-4265. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ery224.

Identification and characterization of terpene synthase genes accounting for volatile terpene emissions in flowers of Freesia x hybrida.

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Key Laboratory of Molecular Epigenetics of MOE and Institute of Genetics & Cytology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China.


The development of flower scents was a crucial event in biological evolution, providing olfactory signals by which plants can attract pollinators. In this study, bioinformatics, metabolomics, and biochemical and molecular methodologies were integrated to investigate the candidate genes involved in the biosynthesis of volatile components in two cultivars of Freesia x hybrida, Red River® and Ambiance, which release different categories of compounds. We found that terpene synthase (TPS) genes were the pivotal genes determining spatiotemporal release of volatile compounds in both cultivars. Eight FhTPS genes were isolated and six were found to be functional: FhTPS1 was a single-product enzyme catalyzing the formation of linalool, whereas the other four FhTPS proteins were multi-product enzymes, among which FhTPS4, FhTPS6, and FhTPS7 could recognize geranyl diphosphate and farnesyl diphosphate simultaneously. The FhTPS enzymatic products closely matched the volatile terpenes emitted from flowers, and significant correlations were found between release of volatile terpenes and FhTPS gene expression. Graphical models based on these results are proposed that summarize the biosynthesis of Freesia floral volatile terpenes. The characterization of FhTPS genes paves the way to decipher their roles in the speciation and fitness of Freesia, and this knowledge could also be used to introduce or enhance scent in other plants.

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