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Identification of a methyltransferase catalyzing the final step of methyl anthranilate synthesis in cultivated strawberry

Pillet, Jeremy, Chambers, Alan H., Barbey, Christopher, Bao, Zhilong, Plotto, Anne, Bai, Jinhe, Schwieterman, Michael, Johnson, Timothy, Harrison, Benjamin, Whitaker, Vance M., Colquhoun, Thomas A., Folta, Kevin M.
BMC plant biology 2017 v.17 no.1 pp. 147
Fragaria, RNA interference, anthranilic acid, biosynthesis, breeding, cultivars, flavor, frozen fruit, fruits, genes, genetic markers, methyltransferases, odors, powders, strawberries, transcriptome
BACKGROUND: Methyl anthranilate (MA) contributes an attractive fruity note to the complex flavor and aroma of strawberry (Fragaria spp.), yet it is rare in modern cultivars. The genetic basis for its biosynthesis has not been elucidated. Understanding the specific genes required for its synthesis could allow the development of gene/allele-specific molecular markers to speed breeding of flavorful strawberries. RESULTS: Ripe fruits from individuals in an F1 population resulting from a cross between a MA producer and a non-producer were examined using a bulk-segregant transcriptome approach. MA producer and non-producer transcriptomes were compared, revealing five candidate transcripts that strictly co-segregated with MA production. One candidate encodes an annotated methyltransferase. MA levels are lower when this transcript is suppressed with RNAi, and bacterial cultures expressing the protein produced MA in the presence of anthranilic acid. Frozen fruit powders reconstituted with anthranilic acid and a methyl donor produced MA only if the transcript was detected in the fruit powder. A DNA-based molecular marker was developed that segregates with the MA-producing gene variant. CONCLUSIONS: These analyses indicate that the methyltransferase, now noted ANTHRANILIC ACID METHYL TRANSFERASE (FanAAMT), mediates the ultimate step of MA production in cultivated strawberry. Identification of this gene and its associated molecular marker may hasten breeding efforts to introduce this important volatile into modern cultivars.