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The Variability of Sesquiterpenes Emitted from Two Zea mays Cultivars Is Controlled by Allelic Variation of Two Terpene Synthase Genes Encoding Stereoselective Multiple Product Enzymes

By Tobias G. Köllner, Christiane Schnee, Jonathan Gershenzon and Jörg Degenhardt


The mature leaves and husks of Zea mays release a complex blend of terpene volatiles after anthesis consisting predominantly of bisabolane-, sesquithujane-, and bergamotane-type sesquiterpenes. The varieties B73 and Delprim release the same volatile constituents but in significantly different proportions. To study the molecular genetic and biochemical mechanisms controlling terpene diversity and distribution in these varieties, we isolated the closely related terpene synthase genes terpene synthase4 (tps4) and tps5 from both varieties. The encoded enzymes, TPS4 and TPS5, each formed the same complex mixture of sesquiterpenes from the precursor farnesyl diphosphate but with different proportions of products. These mixtures correspond to the sesquiterpene blends observed in the varieties B73 and Delprim, respectively. The differences in the stereoselectivity of TPS4 and TPS5 are determined by four amino acid substitutions with the most important being a Gly instead of an Ala residue at position 409 at the catalytic site of the enzyme. Although both varieties contain tps4 and tps5 alleles, their differences in terpene composition result from the fact that B73 has only a single functional allele of tps4 and no functional alleles of tps5, whereas Delprim has only a functional allele of tps5 and no functional alleles of tps4. Lack of functionality was shown to be attributable to frame-shift mutations or amino acid substitutions that greatly reduce the activity of their encoded proteins. Therefore, the diversity of sesquiterpenes in these two maize cultivars is strongly influenced by single nucleotide changes in the alleles of two terpene synthase genes

Topics: Research Articles
Publisher: American Society of Plant Biologists
Year: 2004
DOI identifier: 10.1105/tpc.019877
OAI identifier:
Provided by: PubMed Central
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