Transgenic Research

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 299-311

First online:

The expression level of threonine synthase and cystathionine-γ-synthase is influenced by the level of both threonine and methionine in Arabidopsis plants

  • Tal AvrahamAffiliated withPlant Science Laboratory, Migal – Galilee Technology Center
  • , Rachel AmirAffiliated withPlant Science Laboratory, Migal – Galilee Technology CenterTel-Hai Academic College Email author 

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The biosynthesis pathways of the essential amino acids methionine and threonine diverge from O-phosphohomoserine, an intermediate metabolite in the aspartate family of amino acids. Thus, the enzymes cystathionine-γ-synthase (CGS) in the methionine pathway and threonine synthase (TS), the last enzyme in the threonine pathway, compete for this common substrate. To study this branching point, we overexpressed TS in sense and antisense orientation in Arabidopsis plants with the aim to study its effect on the level of threonine but more importantly on the methionine content. Positive correlation was found not only between TS expression level and threonine content, but also between TS/threonine and CGS expression level. Plants expressing the sense orientation of TS showed a higher level of threonine, increased expression level of CGS, and a significantly higher level of S-methylmethionine, the transport form of methionine. By contrast, plants expressing the antisense form of TS showed lower levels of threonine and of CGS expression level. In these antisense plants, the methionine level increased up to 47-fold compared to wild-type plants. To study further the effect of threonine on CGS expression level, wild-type plants were irrigated with threonine and control plants were irrigated with methionine or water. While threonine increased the expression level of CGS but reduced that of TS, methionine reduced the expression level of CGS but increased that of TS. This data demonstrate that both methionine and threonine affect the two enzymes at the branching point, thus controlling not only their own level, but also the level of each other. This mechanism probably aids in keeping the levels of these two essential amino acids sufficiently high to support plant growth.


amino acid biosynthesis cystathionine-γ-synthase essential amino acids methionine threonine threonine synthase