is a perennial herb native to China. The rhizome of D. zingiberensis
has long been used as a traditional Chinese medicine to treat rheumatic arthritis. Dioscin is the major bioactive ingredient conferring the medicinal property described in Chinese pharmacopoeia. Several previous studies have suggested cholesterol as the intermediate to the biosynthesis of dioscin, however, the biosynthetic steps to dioscin after cholesterol remain unknown. In this study, a comprehensive D. zingiberensis
transcriptome derived from its leaf and rhizome was constructed. Based on the annotation using various public databases, all possible enzymes in the biosynthetic steps to cholesterol were identified. In the late steps beyond cholesterol, cholesterol undergoes site-specific oxidation by cytochrome P450s (CYPs) and glycosylation by UDP-glycosyltransferases (UGTs) to yield dioscin. From the D. zingiberensis
transcriptome, a total of 485 unigenes were annotated as CYPs and 195 unigenes with a sequence length above 1000 bp were annotated as UGTs. Transcriptomic comparison revealed 165 CYP annotated unigenes correlating to dioscin biosynthesis in the plant. Further phylogenetic analysis suggested that among those CYP candidates four of them would be the most likely candidates involved in the biosynthetic steps from cholesterol to dioscin. Additionally, from the UGT annotated unigenes, six of them were annotated as 3-O
-UGTs and two of them were annotated as rhamnosyltransferases, which consisted of potential UGT candidates involved in dioscin biosynthesis. To further explore the function of the UGT candidates, two 3-O
-UGT candidates, named Dz3GT1 and Dz3GT2, were cloned and functionally characterized. Both Dz3GT1 and Dz3GT2 were able to catalyze a C3-glucosylation activity on diosgenin. In conclusion, this study will facilitate our understanding of dioscin biosynthesis pathway and provides a basis for further mining the genes involved in dioscin biosynthesis.
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