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Free Content Completion of the canonical pathway for assembly of anticancer drugs vincristine/vinblastine in Catharanthus roseus

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The important anticancer drugs, vinblastine, vincristine and analogs, are composed of the monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs), catharanthine and vindoline, found uniquely in the medicinal plant, Catharanthus roseus. While 26 genes involved in the assembly of these two MIAs are known, two key reactions have eluded characterization to complete the documentation of the vinblastine pathway in this plant species. The assembly of these dimeric MIAs requires O‐acetylstemmadenine oxidase (ASO) and a dual function geissoschizine synthase (GS) that reduces cathenamine to form geissoschizine, and that also reduces the ASO product to form a common intermediate for subsequent conversion by four separate hydrolases to catharanthine, tabersonine or vincadifformine, respectively. The in planta role of ASO is supported by identifying a single amino acid‐substituted ASO mutant with very low enzyme activity and by virus‐induced gene silencing of ASO to produce plants that accumulate O‐acetylstemmadenine rather than catharanthine and vindoline found in wild‐type (WT) plants. The in planta role of GS is supported by showing that a low GS‐expressing mutant accumulating lower levels of catharanthine and vindoline also displays significantly lower tabersonine‐forming activity in coupled enzyme assays than in the WT background. Gene expression analyses demonstrate that both ASO and GS are highly enriched in the leaf epidermis where the pathways for catharanthine and tabersonine biosynthesis are expressed. The full elucidation of this canonical pathway enables synthetic biology approaches for manufacturing a broad range of MIAs, including these dimers used in cancer treatment.
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Keywords: Catharanthus roseus; assembly of vinblastine and vincristine; dual‐function geissoschizine synthase; gene discovery and function; monoterpene indole alkaloid

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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