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Bioactive diterpenoid metabolism and cytotoxic activities of genetically transformed Euphorbia lathyris roots

Vincent A. Ricigliano, Vincent P. Sica, Sonja L. Knowles, Nicole Diette, Dianella G. Howarth, Nicholas H. Oberlies
Phytochemistry 2020 v.179 pp. 112504
Euphorbia lathyris, Rhizobium rhizogenes, aerial parts, antineoplastic activity, antiviral properties, breast neoplasms, carbon-oxygen lyases, carcinoma, cell culture, cytotoxicity, dimethylallyltranstransferase, diterpenoids, explants, gene expression regulation, genetic transformation, geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase, human cell lines, lung neoplasms, messenger RNA, metabolic engineering, metabolites, methyl jasmonate, neoplasm cells, prostatic neoplasms, roots, transgenic plants, uterine cervical neoplasms
Plants in the genus Euphorbia produce a wide variety of pharmacologically active diterpenoids with anticancer, multidrug resistance reversal, and antiviral properties. Some are the primary industrial source of ingenol mebutate, which is approved for treatment of the precancerous skin condition actinic keratosis. Similar to other high value phytochemicals, Euphorbia diterpenoids accumulate at low concentrations in planta and chemical synthesis produces similarly low yields. We established genetically transformed root cultures of Euphorbia lathryis as a strategy to gain greater access to diterpenoids from this genus. Transformed roots produced via stem explant infection with Agrobacterium rhizogenes strain 15834 recapitulated the metabolite profiles of field-grown plant roots and aerial tissues. Several putative diterpenoids were present in transformed roots, including ingenol and closely related structures, indicating that root cultures are a promising approach to Euphorbia-specific diterpenoid production. Treatment with methyl jasmonate led to a significant, albeit transient increase in mRNA levels of early diterpenoid biosynthetic enzymes (farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase, geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate synthase, and casbene synthase), suggesting that elicitation could prove useful in future pathway characterization and metabolic engineering efforts. We also show the potential of transformed E. lathyris root cultures for natural product drug discovery applications by measuring their cytotoxic activities using a panel of human carcinoma cell lines derived from prostate, cervix, breast, and lung.