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Perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) leaves contain hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:tartaric acid hydroxycinnamoyl transferase activity and accumulate hydroxycinnamoyl-tartaric acid esters

Michael L Sullivan
Planta 2014 v.239 no.5 pp. 1091-1100
Arachis glabrata var. glabrata, caftaric acid, crude protein, enzyme activity, esters, forage crops, genes, genetic engineering, hydroxycinnamoyltransferase, leaves, peanuts, quinones, substrate specificity, tartaric acid
Many plants accumulate hydroxycinnamoyl esters to protect against abiotic and biotic stresses. Caffeoyl esters, in particular, can be substrates for endogenous polyphenol oxidases (PPOs). Recently, we showed that perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) leaves contain PPO and identified one PPO substrate, caftaric acid (trans-caffeoyl-tartaric acid). Additional compounds were believed to be cis- and trans-p-coumaroyl tartaric acid and cis- and trans-feruloyl-tartaric acid, but lack of standards prevented definitive identifications. We have now characterized enzymatic activities in peanut leaves to begin understanding how caftaric acid and related hydroxycinnamoyl esters are made in this species. We showed that peanut leaves contain a hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA:tartaric acid hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HTT) activity capable of transferring p-coumaroyl, caffeoyl, and feruloyl moieties from CoA to tartaric acid (specific activities of 11±2.8, 8±1.8, 4±0.8 pkat mg-1 crude protein, respectively). The HTT activity was used to make cis- and trans-p-coumaroyl- and -feruloyl-tartaric acid in vitro. These products allowed definitive identification of the corresponding cis- and trans-hydroxycinnamoyl esters extracted from leaves. We tentatively identified sinapoyl-tartaric acid as another major phenolic compound in peanut leaves that likely participates in secondary reactions with PPO-generated quinones. These results suggested hydroxycinnamoyl-tartaric acid esters are made by an acyltransferase, possibly a BAHD family member, in perennial peanut. Identification of a gene encoding HTT and further characterization of the enzyme will aid in identifying determinants of donor and acceptor substrate specificity for this important class of biosynthetic enzymes. An HTT gene could also provide a means via genetic engineering to produce caffeoyl- and other hydroxycinnamoyl-tartaric acid esters in forage crops that lack them.