, Volume 223, Issue 6, pp 1191–1200 | Cite as

Epidermis is a pivotal site of at least four secondary metabolic pathways in Catharanthus roseus aerial organs

  • Samira Mahroug
  • Vincent Courdavault
  • Martine Thiersault
  • Benoit St-Pierre
  • Vincent Burlat
Original Article


Catharanthus roseus produces a wide range of secondary metabolites, some of which present high therapeutic values such as antitumoral monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs), vinblastine and vincristine, and the hypotensive MIA, ajmalicine. We have recently shown that a complex multicellular organisation of the MIA biosynthetic pathway occurred in C. roseus aerial organs. In particular, the final steps of both the secoiridoid–monoterpene and indole pathways specifically occurred in the epidermis of leaves and petals. Chorismate is the common precursor of indole and phenylpropanoid pathways. In an attempt to better map the spatio-temporal organisation of diverse secondary metabolisms in Catharanthus roseus aerial organs, we studied the expression pattern of genes encoding enzymes of the phenylpropanoid pathway (phenylalanine ammonia-lyase [PAL, E.C.], cinnamate 4-hydroxylase [C4H, E.C.] and chalcone synthase [CHS, E.C.]). In situ hybridisation experiments revealed that CrPAL and CrC4H were specifically localised to lignifying xylem, whereas CrPAL, CrC4H and CrCHS were specifically expressed in the flavonoid-rich upper epidermis. Interestingly, these three genes were co-expressed in the epidermis (at least the upper, adaxial one) together with three MIA-related genes, indicating that single epidermis cells were capable of concomitantly producing a wide range of diverse secondary metabolites (e.g. flavonoïds, indoles, secoiridoid–monoterpenes and MIAs). These results, and data showing co-accumulation of flavonoids and alkaloids in single cells of C. roseus cell lines, indicated the spatio-temporal feasibility of putative common regulation mechanisms for the expression of these genes involved in at least four distinct secondary metabolisms.


Catharanthus Epidermis Flavonoids In situ hybridisation Microscopy Monoterpenoid indole alkaloids 



Monoterpenoid indole alkaloid(s)


Phenylalanine ammonia-lyase


Cinnamate 4-hydroxylase


Chalcone synthase


2C-methyl-d-erythritol 4-phosphate


1-deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate (DXP) synthase


DXP reductoisomerase


2C-methyl-d-erythritol 2,4-cyclodiphosphate (MEC) synthase


Geraniol 10-hydroxylase


Secologanin synthase


Tryptophan decarboxylase


Strictosidine synthase


Desacetoxyvindoline 4-hydroxylase


Deacetylvindoline 4-O-acetyltransferase


2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid


Maintenance medium


Production medium


Formaldehyde acetic acid ethyl alcohol


2-aminoethyldiphenyl borinate


Alkaline phosphatase


5-Bromo-4-chloro-3-indolyl phosphate


Nitro blue tetrazolium chloride


Octadecanoid-responsive Catharanthus AP2 transcription factor


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samira Mahroug
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vincent Courdavault
    • 1
  • Martine Thiersault
    • 1
    • 2
  • Benoit St-Pierre
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vincent Burlat
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Université François-Rabelais de ToursEA 2106 “Biomolécules et Biotechnologies Végétales” UFR Sciences et TechniquesToursFrance
  2. 2.Université François-Rabelais de ToursUnité sous Contrat reconnue par l’INRA “Facteurs de transcription et ingénierie métabolique végétale”ToursFrance

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