, Volume 72, Issue 3, pp 311-330
Date: 21 Nov 2009

Enzymatic, expression and structural divergences among carboxyl O-methyltransferases after gene duplication and speciation in Nicotiana

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Abstract

Methyl salicylate and methyl benzoate have important roles in a variety of processes including pollinator attraction and plant defence. These compounds are synthesized by salicylic acid, benzoic acid and benzoic acid/salicylic acid carboxyl methyltransferases (SAMT, BAMT and BSMT) which are members of the SABATH gene family. Both SAMT and BSMT were isolated from Nicotiana suaveolens, Nicotiana alata, and Nicotiana sylvestris allowing us to discern levels of enzyme divergence resulting from gene duplication in addition to species divergence. Phylogenetic analyses showed that Nicotiana SAMTs and BSMTs evolved in separate clades and the latter can be differentiated into the BSMT1 and the newly established BSMT2 branch. Although SAMT and BSMT orthologs showed minimal change coincident with species divergences, substantial evolutionary change of enzyme activity and expression patterns occurred following gene duplication. After duplication, the BSMT enzymes evolved higher preference for benzoic acid (BA) than salicylic acid (SA) whereas SAMTs maintained ancestral enzymatic preference for SA over BA. Expression patterns are largely complementary in that BSMT transcripts primarily accumulate in flowers, leaves and stems whereas SAMT is expressed mostly in roots. A novel enzyme, nicotinic acid carboxyl methyltransferase (NAMT), which displays a high degree of activity with nicotinic acid was discovered to have evolved in N. gossei from an ancestral BSMT. Furthermore a SAM-dependent synthesis of methyl anthranilate via BSMT2 is reported and contrasts with alternative biosynthetic routes previously proposed. While BSMT in flowers is clearly involved in methyl benzoate synthesis to attract pollinators, its function in other organs and tissues remains obscure.