Substrate preferences of caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic acid 3/5-O-methyltransferases in developing stems of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)

Arch Biochem Biophys. 2000 Mar 1;375(1):175-82. doi: 10.1006/abbi.1999.1674.


Caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic acid 3/5-O-methyltransferase (COMT, EC 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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Caffeic Acids / metabolism
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Coumaric Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Immunoblotting
  • Isoenzymes / chemistry
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / isolation & purification
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Lignin / biosynthesis
  • Medicago sativa / enzymology*
  • Medicago sativa / genetics
  • Medicago sativa / growth & development
  • Methyltransferases / chemistry
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / isolation & purification
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Plant Stems / chemistry
  • Plant Stems / enzymology*
  • Plant Stems / genetics
  • Substrate Specificity / genetics


  • Caffeic Acids
  • Coumaric Acids
  • Isoenzymes
  • 5-hydroxyferulic acid
  • Lignin
  • Methyltransferases
  • caffeate O-methyltransferase
  • caffeic acid