Biosynthesis of coumarins in plants: a major pathway still to be unravelled for cytochrome P450 enzymes
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- Bourgaud, F., Hehn, A., Larbat, R. et al. Phytochem Rev (2006) 5: 293. doi:10.1007/s11101-006-9040-2
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Coumarins (1,2-benzopyrones) are ubiquitously found in higher plants where they originate from the phenylpropanoid pathway. They contribute essentially to the persistence of plants being involved in processes such as defense against phytopathogens, response to abiotic stresses, regulation of oxidative stress, and probably hormonal regulation. Despite their importance, major details of their biosynthesis are still largely unknown and many P450-dependent enzymatic steps have remained unresolved. Ortho-hydroxylation of hydroxycinnamic acids is a pivotal step that has received insufficient attention in the literature. This hypothetical P450 reaction is critical for the course for the biosynthesis of simple coumarin, umbelliferone and other hydroxylated coumarins in plants. Multiple P450 enzymes are also involved in furanocoumarin synthesis, a major class of phytoalexins derived from umbelliferone. Several of them have been characterized at the biochemical level but no monooxygenase gene of the furanocoumarin pathway has been identified yet. This review highlights the major steps of the coumarin pathway with emphasis on the cytochrome P450 enzymes involved. Recent progress and the outcomes of novel strategies developed to uncover coumarin-committed CYPs are discussed.