Plant molecular biology

Generation of phenylpropanoid pathway-derived volatiles in transgenic plants: rose alcohol acetyltransferase produces phenylethyl acetate and benzyl acetate in petunia flowers.

PMID 16525891


Esters are important contributors to the aroma of numerous flowers and fruits. Acetate esters such as geranyl acetate, phenylethyl acetate and benzyl acetate are generated as a result of the action of alcohol acetyltransferases (AATs). Numerous homologous AATs from various plants have been characterized using in-vitro assays. To study the function of rose alcohol acetyltransferase (RhAAT) in planta, we generated transgenic petunia plants expressing the rose gene under the control of a CaMV-35S promoter. Although the preferred substrate of RhAAT in vitro is geraniol, in transgenic petunia flowers, it used phenylethyl alcohol and benzyl alcohol to produce the corresponding acetate esters, not generated by control flowers. The level of benzyl alcohol emitted by the flowers of different transgenic lines was ca. three times higher than that of phenylethyl alcohol, which corresponded to the ratio between the respective products, i.e. ca. three times more benzyl acetate than phenylethyl acetate. Feeding of transgenic petunia tissues with geraniol or octanol led to the production of their respective acetates, suggesting the dependence of volatile production on substrate availability.