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Plant Cell. 1998 Dec;10(12):2033-46.

Dual methylation pathways in lignin biosynthesis

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Department of Botany, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


Caffeoyl-coenzyme A (CoA) O-methyltransferase (CCoAOMT) has been proposed to be involved in an alternative methylation pathway of lignin biosynthesis. However, no direct evidence has been available to confirm that CCoAOMT is essential for lignin biosynthesis. To understand further the methylation steps in lignin biosynthesis, we used an antisense approach to alter O-methyltransferase (OMT) gene expression and investigated the consequences of this alteration. We generated transgenic tobacco plants with a substantial reduction in CCoAOMT as well as plants with a simultaneous reduction in both CCoAOMT and caffeic acid O-methyltransferase (CAOMT). Lignin analysis showed that the reduction in CCoAOMT alone resulted in a dramatic decrease in lignin content. The reduction in CCoAOMT also led to a dramatic alteration in lignin composition. Both guaiacyl lignin and syringyl lignin were reduced in the transgenic plants. However, guaiacyl lignin was preferentially reduced, which resulted in an increase in the S/G (syringl/guaiacyl) ratio. We have also analyzed lignin content and composition in transgenic plants having a simultaneous reduction in both CCoAOMT and CAOMT. The reduction in both OMTs resulted in a further decrease in total lignin content. This is in sharp contrast to the effect that resulted from the reduction in CAOMT alone, which only decreased the syringl lignin unit without a reduction in overall lignin content. These results unequivocally demonstrate that methylation reactions in lignin biosynthesis are catalyzed by both CCoAOMT and CAOMT.

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