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New pathway to polyketides in plants

Eckermann, Stefan and Schröder, Gudrun and Schmidt, Jürgen and Streck, Dieter and Edrada, Ru A. and Helariutta, Yrjö and Elomaa, Paula and Kotilainen, Mika and Kilpeläinen, Ilkka and Proksch, Peter and Teeri, Teemu H. and Schröder, Joachim (1998) New pathway to polyketides in plants. Nature, 396 (6709). pp. 387-390. ISSN 0028-0836

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The repertoire of secondary metabolism (involving the production of compounds not essential for growth) in the plant kingdom is enormous, but the genetic and functional basis for this diversity is hard to analyse as many of the biosynthetic enzymes are unknown. We have now identified a key enzyme in the ornamental plant Gerbera hybrida (Asteraceae) that participates in the biosynthesis of compounds that contribute to insect and pathogen resistance. Plants transformed with an antisense construct of gchs2, a complementary DNA encoding a previously unknown function, completely lack the pyrone derivatives gerberin and parasorboside. The recombinant plant protein catalyses the principal reaction in the biosynthesis of these derivatives GCHS2 is a polyketide synthase that uses acetyl-CoA and two condensation reactions with malonyl-CoA to form the pyrone backbone of the natural products. The enzyme also accepts benzoly-CoA to synthesize the backbone of substances that have become of interest as inhibitors of the HIV-1 protease. GCHS2 is related to chalcone synthase (CHS) and its properties define a new class of function in the protein superfamily. It appears that CHS-related enzymes are involved in the biosynthesis of a much larger range of plant products than was previously realized.