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J Biol Chem. 1994 Sep 2;269(35):22372-8.

Conversion of vestitone to medicarpin in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is catalyzed by two independent enzymes. Identification, purification, and characterization of vestitone reductase and 7,2'-dihydroxy-4'-methoxyisoflavanol dehydratase.

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Plant Biology Division, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma 73402.


Pterocarpan phytoalexins are antimicrobial compounds in leguminous plants. The final step of pterocarpan biosynthesis, conversion of vestitone to medicarpin, was thought to be catalyzed by a single enzyme "pterocarpan synthase." We have shown that the pterocarpan synthase activity observed in crude extracts of alfalfa suspension cell cultures is the sum of two independent enzymatic activities: vestitone reductase, which catalyzes the NADPH-dependent reduction of vestitone to 7,2'-dihydroxy-4'-methoxyisoflavanol (DMI), and DMI dehydratase, which catalyzes loss of water and closure of an ether ring to form medicarpin. The first enzyme, vestitone reductase, was purified 1,840-fold to homogeneity by a 5-step procedure. Purified vestitone reductase showed a single band on SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis with an estimated molecular mass of 38 kDa. The native molecular mass measured by gel filtration was shown to be 34 kDa, indicating that vestitone reductase is a monomer. Vestitone reductase has strict substrate stereo specificity for (3R)-vestitone with a Km value of 45 microM. The second enzyme, DMI dehydratase, was partially purified 962-fold. DMI dehydratase had a native molecular mass of 38 kDa as estimated by gel filtration and a Km value of 5 microM for DMI. Both enzymes have a temperature optimum of 30 degrees C and a pH optimum of 6.0. The discovery of vestitone reductase and DMI dehydratase will facilitate future genetic manipulation of pterocarpan biosynthesis.

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