Miq., one of the three original plants of TCM ASARI RADIX ET RHIZOMA, is a perennial herb distributed in central and eastern China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. Methyleugenol has been considered as the most important constituent of Asarum
volatile oil, meanwhile asarinin is also employed as the quality control standard of ASARI RADIX ET RHIZOMA in Chinese Pharmacopeia. They both have shown wide range of biological activities. However, little was known about genes involved in biosynthesis pathways of either methyleugenol or asarinin in Asarum
plants. In the present study, we performed de novo transcriptome analysis of plant tissues (e.g., roots, rhizomes, and leaves) at different developmental stages. The sequence assembly resulted in 311,597 transcripts from these plant materials, among which 925 transcripts participated in ‘secondary metabolism’ with particularly up to 20.22% of them falling into phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathway. The corresponding enzymes belong to seven families potentially encoding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), trans-cinnamate 4-monooxygenase (C4H), p
-coumarate 3-hydroxylase (C3H), caffeoyl-CoA O
-methyltransferase (CCoAOMT), cinnamoyl-CoA reductase (CCR), cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD), and eugenol synthase (EGS). Moreover, 5 unigenes of DIR (dirigent protein) and 11 unigenes of CYP719A (719A subfamily of cytochrome P450 oxygenases) were speculated to be involved in asarinin pathway. Of the 15 candidate CADs, four unigenes that possessed high FPKM (fragments per transcript kilobase per million fragments mapped) value in roots were cloned and characterized. Only the recombinant AsCAD5 protein efficiently converted p
-coumaryl, coniferyl, and sinapyl aldehydes to their corresponding alcohols, which are key intermediates employed not only in biosynthesis of lignin but also in that of methyleugenol and asarinin. qRT-PCR revealed that AsCAD5 had a high expression level in roots at three developmental stages. Our study will provide insight into the potential application of molecular breeding and metabolic engineering for improving the quality of TCM ASARI RADIX ET RHIZOMA.
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