cDNA cloning, characterization, and functional expression of four new monoterpene synthase members of the Tpsd gene family from grand fir (Abies grandis)

Arch Biochem Biophys. 1999 Aug 15;368(2):232-43. doi: 10.1006/abbi.1999.1332.


Grand fir (Abies grandis) is a useful model system for studying the biochemistry, molecular genetics, and regulation of defensive oleoresin formation in conifers, a process involving both the constitutive accumulation of resin (pitch) in specialized secretory structures and the induced biosynthesis of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes (turpentine) and diterpene resin acids (rosin) by nonspecialized cells at the site of injury. A similarity-based cloning strategy, employing primers designed to conserved regions of existing monoterpene synthases and anticipated to amplify a 1000-bp fragment, unexpectedly yielded a 300-bp fragment with sequence reminiscent of a terpenoid synthase. Utilization of this amplicon as a hybridization probe afforded four new, full-length cDNA species from a wounded fir stem cDNA library that appeared to encode four distinct monoterpene synthases. Expression in Escherichia coli, followed by enzyme assay with geranyl diphosphate (C(10)), farnesyl diphosphate (C(15)) and geranylgeranyl diphosphate (C(20)), and analysis of the terpene products by chiral phase gas chromatography and mass spectrometry confirmed that these sequences encoded four new monoterpene synthases, including (-)-camphene synthase, (-)-beta-phellandrene synthase, terpinolene synthase, and an enzyme that produces both (-)-limonene and (-)-alpha-pinene. The deduced amino acid sequences indicated these enzymes to be 618 to 637 residues in length (71 to 73 kDa) and to be translated as preproteins bearing an amino-terminal plastid targeting sequence of 50-60 residues. cDNA truncation to delete the transit peptide allowed functional expression of the "pseudomature" forms of these enzymes, which exhibited no change in product outcome as a result of truncation. Sequence comparison revealed that these new monoterpene synthases from grand fir are members of the Tpsd gene subfamily and resemble sesquiterpene (C(15)) synthases and diterpene (C(20)) synthases from conifers more closely than mechanistically related monoterpene synthases from angiosperm species. The availability of a nearly complete set of constitutive and inducible monoterpene synthases from grand fir (now numbering seven) will allow molecular dissection of the resin-based defense response in this conifer species, and detailed study of structure-function relationships among this large and diverse family of catalysts, all of which exploit the same stereochemistry in the coupled isomerization-cyclization reaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • DNA, Complementary / isolation & purification
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Intramolecular Lyases / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Trees / enzymology
  • Trees / genetics*


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Plant Proteins
  • Intramolecular Lyases
  • pinene cyclase I