Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 22, Issue 12, pp 959–966 | Cite as

Characterization of a multifunctional methyltransferase from the orchid Vanilla planifolia

  • F. E. Pak
  • S. Gropper
  • W. D. Dai
  • D. Havkin-Frenkel
  • F. C. Belanger
Physiology and Biochemistry


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.


Caffeic acid methyltransferase 3,4-Dihydroxybenzaldehyde Vanillin 



Caffeic acid O-methyltransferase









We thank Dr. Richard Dixon, Noble Foundation, for the sequencing and Dr. Eran Pichersky, University of Michigan, for advice on the affinity chromatography. This work was supported by a grant from David Michael & Company.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. E. Pak
    • 1
  • S. Gropper
    • 1
  • W. D. Dai
    • 1
  • D. Havkin-Frenkel
    • 1
  • F. C. Belanger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and PathologyRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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