Molecular genetics of nucleotide sugar interconversion pathways in plants

Plant Mol Biol. 2001 Sep;47(1-2):95-113.


Nucleotide sugar interconversion pathways represent a series of enzymatic reactions by which plants synthesize activated monosaccharides for the incorporation into cell wall material. Although biochemical aspects of these metabolic pathways are reasonably well understood, the identification and characterization of genes encoding nucleotide sugar interconversion enzymes is still in its infancy. Arabidopsis mutants defective in the activation and interconversion of specific monosaccharides have recently become available, and several genes in these pathways have been cloned and characterized. The sequence determination of the entire Arabidopsis genome offers a unique opportunity to identify candidate genes encoding nucleotide sugar interconversion enzymes via sequence comparisons to bacterial homologues. An evaluation of the Arabidopsis databases suggests that the majority of these enzymes are encoded by small gene families, and that most of these coding regions are transcribed. Although most of the putative proteins are predicted to be soluble, others contain N-terminal extensions encompassing a transmembrane domain. This suggests that some nucleotide sugar interconversion enzymes are targeted to an endomembrane system, such as the Golgi apparatus, where they may co-localize with glycosyltransferases in cell wall synthesis. The functions of the predicted coding regions can most likely be established via reverse genetic approaches and the expression of proteins in heterologous systems. The genetic characterization of nucleotide sugar interconversion enzymes has the potential to understand the regulation of these complex metabolic pathways and to permit the modification of cell wall material by changing the availability of monosaccharide precursors.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Carbohydrate Epimerases / genetics
  • Carbohydrate Epimerases / metabolism
  • Carboxy-Lyases / genetics
  • Carboxy-Lyases / metabolism
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monosaccharides / metabolism*
  • Nucleoside Diphosphate Sugars / metabolism*
  • Plants / enzymology
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / genetics
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase / metabolism
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucose Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucose Dehydrogenase / metabolism


  • Monosaccharides
  • Nucleoside Diphosphate Sugars
  • Uridine Diphosphate Glucose Dehydrogenase
  • Carboxy-Lyases
  • UDPglucuronate decarboxylase
  • Carbohydrate Epimerases
  • UDPglucose 4-Epimerase
  • UDPglucuronate 4-epimerase