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Plant Cell. 1994 May;6(5):723-35.

Gene expression in tobacco low-nicotine mutants.

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  • 1Department of Agricultural Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan.


Two nuclear genes, Nic1 and Nic2, regulate nicotine levels in tobacco. nic1 and nic2 are semidominant mutations in Burley 21 that reduce leaf nicotine levels and the activities of multiple enzymes in the nicotine pathway and simultaneously increase polyamine levels in cultured roots. Cultured roots homozygous for both mutations were used to isolate two cDNAs by subtraction hybridization; the transcript levels of these two cDNAs were much lower in the mutant roots than in the wild-type roots. The A411 gene encodes a 41-kD protein with considerable homology to mammalian spermidine synthase, whereas the A622 gene encodes a 35-kD protein with high homology to isoflavone reductase. When these genes were expressed in Escherichia coli, A411 had no spermidine synthase activity but did show putrescine N-methyltransferase activity, which is the first enzyme committed to the nicotine biosynthetic pathway, and A622 did not show isoflavone reductase activity. Both the methyltransferase and A622 genes are predominantly expressed in the root, and their expression levels in cultured roots are coordinately decreased by the nic mutations in the order of wild type > nic2 > nic1 > nic1 nic2. Removal of tobacco flower heads and young leaves rapidly and coordinately induced both genes in the root. Further, exogenous supply of auxin down-regulated both genes in cultured tobacco roots. These results suggest that Nic1 and Nic2 are regulatory genes for nicotine biosynthesis.

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