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The lack of floral synthesis and emission of isoeugenol in Petunia axillaris subsp. parodii is due to a mutation in the isoeugenol synthase gene

Koeduka, Takao, Orlova, Irina, Baiga, Thomas J., Noel, Joseph P., Dudareva, Natalia, Pichersky, Eran
Plant journal 2009 v.58 no.6 pp. 961-969
Petunia axillaris subsp. parodii, Petunia hybrida, Petunia integrifolia, RNA interference, acetates, benzaldehyde, biosynthesis, corolla, eugenol, genes, hybrids, mutation, odors
Floral scent has been extensively investigated in plants of the South American genus Petunia. Flowers of Petunia integrifolia emit mostly benzaldehyde, while flowers of Petunia axillaris subsp. axillaris emit a mixture of volatile benzenoid and phenylpropanoid compounds that include isoeugenol and eugenol. Flowers of the artificial hybrid Petunia hybrida, a cross between P. integrifolia and P. axillaris, emit a similar spectrum of volatiles as P. axillaris subsp. axillaris. However, the flowers of P. axillaris subsp. parodii emit neither isoeugenol nor eugenol but contain high levels of dihydroconiferyl acetate in the petals, the main scent-synthesizing and scent-emitting organs. We recently showed that both isoeugenol and eugenol in P. hybrida are biosynthesized from coniferyl acetate in reactions catalyzed by isoeugenol synthase (PhIGS1) and eugenol synthase (PhEGS1), respectively, via a quinone methide-like intermediate. Here we show that P. axillaris subsp. parodii has a functional EGS gene that is expressed in flowers, but its IGS gene contains a frame-shift mutation that renders it inactive. Despite the presence of active EGS enzyme in P. axillaris subsp. parodii, in the absence of IGS activity the coniferyl acetate substrate is converted by an as yet unknown enzyme to dihydroconiferyl acetate. By contrast, suppressing the expression of PhIGS1 in P. hybrida by RNA interference also leads to a decrease in isoeugenol biosynthesis, but instead of the accumulation of dihydroconiferyl acetate, the flowers synthesize higher levels of eugenol.