Caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic acid 3/5-O-methyltransferase (COMT, EC 22.214.171.124) catalyzes at least two reactions in lignin biosynthesis. Of its two supposed substrates in the lignin pathway, COMT from most sources methylates 5-hydroxyferulic acid (5HFA) with two to three times higher activity than caffeic acid (CafA). The ratio of activity for 5HFA compared with CafA increases with the developmental age of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) stem internodes, from approximately 1:1 in young (third and fourth) internodes to 2:1 in mature (seventh and eighth) internodes. This observation, together with immunoblot analysis using antiserum raised against recombinant alfalfa COMT, suggests the presence of a different form of COMT, having preference for CafA compared with 5HFA, in young internodes. This apparently new O-methyltransferase (COMT II) was separated from the previously characterized COMT (COMT I) by anion exchange and hydrophobic interaction chromatography. COMT I, but not COMT II, was found in mature internodes. COMT II was not recognized by anti-(COMT I) serum. Furthermore, in addition to substrate preference, COMT II differed from COMT I in native relative molecular mass, pH optimum, and its very low K(m) for CafA. The possible physiological role of COMT II is discussed.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.