Specialized metabolites are chemically complex small molecules with a myriad of biological functions. To investigate plantspecialized metabolite biosynthesis more effectively, we developed an improved method for virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS). We designed a plasmid that incorporates fragments of both the target gene and knockdown marker gene (phytoene desaturase, PDS), which identifies tissues that have been successfully silenced in planta. To demonstrate the utility of this method, we used the terpenoid indole alkaloid (TIA) pathway in Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) as a model system. Catharanthus roseus is a medicinal plant well known for producing many bioactive compounds, such as vinblastine and vincristine. Our VIGS method enabled the discovery of a previously unknown biosynthetic enzyme, serpentine synthase (SS). This enzyme is a cytochrome P450 (CYP) that produces the b-carboline alkaloids serpentine and alstonine, compounds with strong blue autofluorescence and potential pharmacological activity. The discovery of this enzyme highlights the complexity of TIA biosynthesis and demonstrates the utility of this improved VIGS method for discovering unidentified metabolic enzymes in plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science