Biosynthesis of secondary metabolites in sugarcane

A set of genes related to secondary metabolism was extracted from the sugarcane expressed sequence tag (SUCEST) database and was used to investigate both the gene expression pattern of key enzymes regulating the main biosynthetic secondary metabolism pathways and the major classes of metabolites involved in the response of sugarcane to environmental and developmental cues. The SUCEST database was constructed with tissues in different physiological conditions which had been collected under varied situation of environmental stress. This database allows researchers to identify and characterize the expressed genes of a wide range of putative enzymes able to catalyze steps in the phenylpropanoid, isoprenoid and other pathways of the special metabolic mechanisms involved in the response of sugarcane to environmental changes. Our results show that sugarcane cDNAs encoded putative ultra-violet induced sesquiterpene cyclases (SC); chalcone synthase (CHS), the first enzyme in the pathway branch for flavonoid biosynthesis; isoflavone synthase (IFS), involved in plant defense and root nodulation; isoflavone reductase (IFR), a key enzyme in phenylpropanoid phytoalexin biosynthesis; and caffeic acid-O-methyltransferase, a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of lignin cell wall precursors. High levels of CHS transcripts from plantlets infected with Herbaspirillum rubri or Gluconacetobacter diazotroficans suggests that agents of biotic stress can elicit flavonoid biosynthesis in sugarcane. From this data we have predicted the profile of isoprenoid and phenylpropanoid metabolism in sugarcane and pointed the branches of secondary metabolism activated during tissue-specific stages of development and the adaptive response of sugarcane to agents of biotic and abiotic stress, although our assignment of enzyme function should be confirmed by careful biochemical and genetic supporting evidence.

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