Hop ( Humulus lupulus L. Cannabaceae) is an economically important crop for the brewing industry, where it is used to impart flavor and aroma to beer, and has also drawn attention in recent years due to its potential pharmaceutical applications. Essential oils (mono- and sesquiterpenes), bitter acids (prenylated polyketides), and prenylflavonoids are the primary phytochemical components that account for these traits, and all accumulate at high concentrations in glandular trichomes of hop cones. To understand the molecular basis for terpene accumulation in hop trichomes, a trichome cDNA library was constructed and 9,816 cleansed expressed sequence tag (EST) sequences were obtained from random sequencing of 16,152 cDNA clones. The ESTs were assembled into 3,619 unigenes (1,101 contigs and 2,518 singletons). Putative functions were assigned to the unigenes based on their homology to annotated sequences in the GenBank database. Two mono- and two sesquiterpene synthases identified from the EST collection were expressed in Escherichia coli . Hop MONOTERPENE SYNTHASE2 formed the linear monterpene myrcene from geranyl pyrophosphate, whereas hop SESQUITERPENE SYNTHASE1 (HlSTS1) formed both caryophyllene and humulene from farnesyl pyrophosphate. Together, these enzymes account for the production of the major terpene constituents of the hop trichomes. HlSTS2 formed the minor sesquiterpene constituent germacrene A, which was converted to β -elemene on chromatography at elevated temperature. We discuss potential functions for other genes expressed at high levels in developing hop trichomes.
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