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Characterization of the Monoterpene Synthase Gene tps26, the Ortholog of a Gene Induced by Insect Herbivory in Maize

Lin, Changfa, Shen, Binzhang, Xu, Zhennan, Köllner, Tobias G., Degenhardt, Jörg, Dooner, Hugo K.
Plant physiology 2008 v.146 no.3 pp. 940-951
quantitative trait loci, plant damage, green fluorescent protein, alleles, parents, Diatraea grandiosella, seedlings, corn, Zea mays subsp. mays, herbivores, peptides, genetic techniques and protocols, duplicate genes, natural enemies, gene expression regulation, insects, roots, leaves, prediction
Plants damaged by insects can synthesize and release volatile chemicals that attract natural enemies of the herbivore. The maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) terpene synthase gene stc1 is part of that indirect defense response, being induced in seedling blades in response to herbivory by beet army worm. Many genes in maize are duplicated because of a past whole-genome duplication event, and several of these orthologs display different expression patterns. We report here the isolation and characterization of tps26 and confirm by homology and synteny criteria that it is the ortholog of stc1. Prior genetic analysis revealed that the stc1 function is not duplicated, raising the interesting question of how the two orthologs have become differentiated in their expression. tps26 encodes a 633-amino acid protein that is highly conserved with STC1. Like stc1, tps26 is induced by wounding, but in the roots and leaf sheath, instead of the blade, and not in response to beet army worm feeding. tps26 maps near a quantitative trait locus for Southwestern corn borer resistance, making it a plausible candidate gene for that quantitative trait locus. However, while possessing highly polymorphic tps26 alleles, the resistant and susceptible parents of the mapping population do not differ in levels of tps26 expression. Moreover, tps26 is not induced specifically by Southwestern corn borer feeding. Therefore, although they share a wounding response, the stc1 and tps26 maize orthologs differ in their tissue specificity and their induction by insect herbivores. The N termini of STC1 and TPS26 are predicted to encode plastid transit peptides; fusion proteins of green fluorescent protein to either N terminus localized to the plastid, confirming that prediction. The mature proteins, but not the respective complete proteins, were active and synthesized a blend of monoterpenes, indicating that they are monoterpene synthases. A gene closely related to stc1/tps26 is found in the sorghum (Sorghum spp.) genome at a location that is not orthologous with stc1. The possible origin of stc1-like genes is discussed.