The enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGR, EC 188.8.131.52) is encoded by a small multigene family in tomato (Lycopersiconesculentum Mill.) and catalyzes the synthesis of mevalonic acid (MVA), a committed step in the biosynthesis of sterols and isoprenoids. A chimeric HMG1::GUS reporter gene fusion was used to analyze the regulation of HMG1 gene expression in detail. HMG1 promoter 5′ deletion mutants established the boundary of a fully inducible promoter. In HMG1::GUS transgenic tomato plants, histochemical staining with 5-bromo-3-indolyl-glucuronide demonstrated that HMG1 was primarily expressed in shoot and root meristems, and in young tomato fruit. This result was confirmed by both HMG1 in-situ hybridization and RNA gel blot analysis. Tomato suspension cell experiments showed that steady-state HMG1 mRNA accumulated during lag and exponential growth phases, but not during the stationary phase. Transient expression of the HMG1::GUS in tissue culture cells treated with mevinolin indicated that HMG1 expression was subject to feedback regulation by a biosynthetic product derived from MVA. These results suggest that a primary, although not exclusive, role of HMG1 is to supply the MVA demand associated with cell division and growth.
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