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The Plant cell

Genomic and coexpression analyses predict multiple genes involved in triterpene saponin biosynthesis in Medicago truncatula.


PMID 20348429

Abstract

Saponins, an important group of bioactive plant natural products, are glycosides of triterpenoid or steroidal aglycones (sapogenins). Saponins possess many biological activities, including conferring potential health benefits for humans. However, most of the steps specific for the biosynthesis of triterpene saponins remain uncharacterized at the molecular level. Here, we use comprehensive gene expression clustering analysis to identify candidate genes involved in the elaboration, hydroxylation, and glycosylation of the triterpene skeleton in the model legume Medicago truncatula. Four candidate uridine diphosphate glycosyltransferases were expressed in Escherichia coli, one of which (UGT73F3) showed specificity for multiple sapogenins and was confirmed to glucosylate hederagenin at the C28 position. Genetic loss-of-function studies in M. truncatula confirmed the in vivo function of UGT73F3 in saponin biosynthesis. This report provides a basis for future studies to define genetically the roles of multiple cytochromes P450 and glycosyltransferases in triterpene saponin biosynthesis in Medicago.

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H3916
Hederagenin, ≥97% (HPLC)
C30H48O4