The Plant cell

Molecular Diversity of Terpene Synthases in the Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha.

PMID 27650333


Marchantia polymorpha is a basal terrestrial land plant, which like most liverworts accumulates structurally diverse terpenes believed to serve in deterring disease and herbivory. Previous studies have suggested that the mevalonate and methylerythritol phosphate pathways, present in evolutionarily diverged plants, are also operative in liverworts. However, the genes and enzymes responsible for the chemical diversity of terpenes have yet to be described. In this study, we resorted to a HMMER search tool to identify 17 putative terpene synthase genes from M. polymorpha transcriptomes. Functional characterization identified four diterpene synthase genes phylogenetically related to those found in diverged plants and nine rather unusual monoterpene and sesquiterpene synthase-like genes. The presence of separate monofunctional diterpene synthases for ent-copalyl diphosphate and ent-kaurene biosynthesis is similar to orthologs found in vascular plants, pushing the date of the underlying gene duplication and neofunctionalization of the ancestral diterpene synthase gene family to >400 million years ago. By contrast, the mono- and sesquiterpene synthases represent a distinct class of enzymes, not related to previously described plant terpene synthases and only distantly so to microbial-type terpene synthases. The absence of a Mg2+ binding, aspartate-rich, DDXXD motif places these enzymes in a noncanonical family of terpene synthases.