Monoterpene and sesquiterpene synthases and the origin of terpene skeletal diversity in plants

Phytochemistry. Oct-Nov 2009;70(15-16):1621-37. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2009.07.030. Epub 2009 Sep 28.


The multitude of terpene carbon skeletons in plants is formed by enzymes known as terpene synthases. This review covers the monoterpene and sesquiterpene synthases presenting an up-to-date list of enzymes reported and evidence for their ability to form multiple products. The reaction mechanisms of these enzyme classes are described, and information on how terpene synthase proteins mediate catalysis is summarized. Correlations between specific amino acid motifs and terpene synthase function are described, including an analysis of the relationships between active site sequence and cyclization type and a discussion of whether specific protein features might facilitate multiple product formation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases / metabolism*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Monoterpenes / chemistry
  • Monoterpenes / isolation & purification*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Plants / enzymology*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Sesquiterpenes / chemistry
  • Sesquiterpenes / isolation & purification*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Monoterpenes
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Alkyl and Aryl Transferases
  • terpene synthase