Homospermidine synthase is the first specific enzyme in the biosynthesis of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Whereas the substrates putrescine and spermidine are part of the highly dynamic polyamine pool of plants, the product homospermidine is incorporated exclusively into the necine base moiety of pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Recently, the gene encoding homospermidine synthase has been shown to have been recruited several times independently during angiosperm evolution by the duplication of the gene encoding deoxyhypusine synthase. To test whether high levels of homospermidine suffice for conversion, at least in traces, to precursors of pyrrolizidine alkaloids, transgenic tobacco plants were generated expressing homospermidine synthase. Analyses of the polyamine content revealed that, in the transgenic plants, about 80% of spermidine was replaced by homospermidine without any conspicuous modifications of the phenotype. Tracer-feeding experiments and gas chromatographic analyses suggested that these high levels of homospermidine were not sufficient to explain the formation of alkaloid precursors. These results are discussed with respect to current models of pathway evolution.
Plant Molecular Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 21, 2009
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