, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 857-867

Structure and expression of the lignin O-methyltransferase gene from Zea mays L.

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Abstract

The isolation and characterization of cDNA and homologous genomic clones encoding the lignin O-methyltransferase (OMT) from maize is reported. The cDNA clone has been isolated by differential screening of maize root cDNA library. Southern analysis indicates that a single gene codes for this protein. The genomic sequence contains a single 916 bp intron. The deduced protein sequence from DNA shares significant homology with the recently reported lignin-bispecific caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic OMTs from alfalfa and aspen. It also shares homology with OMTs from bovine pineal glands and a purple non-sulfur photosynthetic bacterium. The mRNA of this gene is present at different levels in distinct organs of the plant with the highest accumulation detected in the elongation zone of roots. Bacterial extracts from clones containing the maize OMT cDNA show an activity in methylation of caffeic acid to ferulic acid comparable to that existing in the plant extracts. These results indicate that the described gene encodes the caffeic acid 3-O-methyltransferase (COMT) involved in the lignin biosynthesis of maize.