, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 959-966
Date: 30 Apr 2004

Characterization of a multifunctional methyltransferase from the orchid Vanilla planifolia

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The final enzymatic step in the synthesis of the flavor compound vanillin (4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) is believed to be methylation of 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde. We have isolated and functionally characterized a cDNA that encodes a multifunctional methyltransferase from Vanilla planifolia tissue cultures that can catalyze the conversion of 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde to vanillin, although 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde is not the preferred substrate. The higher catalytic efficiency of the purified recombinant enzyme with the substrates caffeoyl aldehyde and 5-OH-coniferaldehyde, and its tissue distribution, suggest this methyltransferase may primarily function in lignin biosynthesis. However, since the enzyme characterized here does have 3,4-dihydroxybenzaldehyde-O-methyltransferase activity, it may be useful in engineering strategies for the synthesis of natural vanillin from alternate sources.