Metabolism of Monoterpenes: Acetylation of (-)-Menthol by a Soluble Enzyme Preparation from Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Leaves

Plant Physiol. 1978 May;61(5):737-42. doi: 10.1104/pp.61.5.737.


The essential oil from mature leaves of flowering peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) contains up to 15% (-)-menthyl acetate, and leaf discs converted exogenous (-)-[G-(3)H]menthol into this ester in approximately 15% yield of the incorporated precursor. Leaf extracts catalyzed the acetyl coenzyme A-dependent acetylation of (-)-[G-(3)H]menthol and the product of this transacetylase reaction was identified by radiochromatographic techniques. Transacetylase activity was located mainly in the 100,000g supernatant fraction, and the preparation was partially purified by combination of Sephadex G-100 gel filtration and chromatography on O-diethylaminoethyl-cellulose. The transacetylase had a molecular weight of about 37,000 as judged by Sephadex G-150 gel filtration, and a pH optimum near 9. The apparent K(m) and velocity for (-)-menthol were 0.3 mm and 16 nmol/hr. mg of protein, respectively. The saturation curve for acetyl coenzyme A was sigmoidal, showing apparent saturation near 0.1 mm. Dithioerythritol was required for maximum activity and stability of the enzyme, and the enzyme was inhibited by thiol directed reagents such as p-hydroxymercuribenzoate. Diisopropylfluorophosphate also inhibited transacylation suggesting the involvement of a serine residue in catalysis. The transacylase was highly specific for acetyl coenzyme A; propionyl coenzyme A and butyryl coenzyme A were not nearly as efficient as acyl donors (11% and 2%, respectively). However, the enzyme was much less selective with regard to the alcohol substrate, suggesting that the nature of the acetate ester synthesized in mint is more dependent on the type of alcohol available than on the specificity of the transacetylase. This is the first report on an enzyme involved in monoterpenol acetylation in plants. A very similar enzyme, catalyzing this key reaction in the metabolism of menthol, was also isolated from the flowers of peppermint.