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ß-N-oxalyl-L-a,ß-diaminopropionic acid (ß-ODAP) content in Lathyrus sativus: the integration of nitrogen and sulfur metabolism through ß-cyanoalanine synthase

Quanle Xu, Fengjuan Liu, Peng Chen, Joseph M. Jez, Hari B. Krishnan
International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2017 v.18 no.526 pp. 1-14
Lathyrus sativus, biochemical pathways, biosynthesis, cultivars, cysteine, drought, environmental factors, enzymes, flooded conditions, lathyrism, legumes, methionine, motor neurons, neurotoxicity, nitrogen, nonprotein amino acids, nutrient deficiencies, sulfur, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa
Grasspea (Lathyrus sativus L.) is an important legume crop grown mainly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This under utilized legume can withstand harsh environmental conditions including drought and flooding. During drought-induced famines, this protein-rich legume serves as a food source for poor farmers when other crops fail under harsh environmental conditions; however, its use is limited because of the presence of an endogenous neurotoxic nonprotein amino acid ß-N-oxalyl-L-a,ß-diaminopropionic acid (ß-ODAP). Long-term consumption of Lathyrus and ß-ODAP is linked to lathyrism, which is a degenerative motor neuron syndrome. Pharmacological studies indicate that nutritional deficiencies in methionine and cysteine may aggravate the neurotoxicity of ß-ODAP. The biosynthetic pathway leading to the production of ß-ODAP is poorly understood, but is linked to sulfur metabolism. To date, only limited studies have been conducted in grasspea on the sulfur assimilatory enzymes and how these enzymes regulate the biosynthesis of ß-ODAP. Here, we review the current knowledge on the role of sulfur metabolism in grasspea and its contribution to ß-ODAP biosynthesis. Additionally, we present our recent work on cloning and manipulation of ß-cyanoalanine synthase, a key enzyme in ß-ODAP biosynthetic pathway. Unraveling the fundamental steps and regulation of ß-ODAP synthesis in grasspea will be vital for the development of improved varieties of this under utilized legume.