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Free Content A Solanum lycopersicum catechol‐O‐methyltransferase involved in synthesis of the flavor molecule guaiacol

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O‐methyltransferases (OMT) are important enzymes that are responsible for the synthesis of many small molecules, which include lignin monomers, flavonoids, alkaloids, and aroma compounds. One such compound is guaiacol, a small volatile molecule with a smoky aroma that contributes to tomato flavor. Little information is known about the pathway and regulation of synthesis of guaiacol. One possible route for synthesis is via catechol methylation. We identified a tomato O‐methyltransferase (CTOMT1) with homology to a Nicotiana tabacum catechol OMT. CTOMT1 was cloned from Solanum lycopersicum cv. M82 and expressed in Escherichia coli. Recombinant CTOMT1 enzyme preferentially methylated catechol, producing guaiacol. To validate the in vivo function of CTOMT1, gene expression was either decreased or increased in transgenic S.┬álycopersicum plants. Knockdown of CTOMT1 resulted in significantly reduced fruit guaiacol emissions. CTOMT1 overexpression resulted in slightly increased fruit guaiacol emission, which suggested that catechol availability might limit guaiacol production. To test this hypothesis, wild type (WT) and CTOMT1 that overexpress tomato pericarp discs were supplied with exogenously applied catechol. Guaiacol production increased in both WT and transgenic fruit discs, although to a much greater extent in CTOMT1 overexpressing discs. Finally, we identified S.┬ápennellii introgression lines with increased guaiacol content and higher expression of CTOMT1. These lines also showed a trend toward lower catechol levels. Taken together, we concluded that CTOMT1 is a catechol‐O‐methyltransferase that produces guaiacol in tomato fruit.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Program, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611-0690 USA 2: Horticultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, 32611-0690 USA

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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