Background: Eleutherococcus senticosus, Siberian ginseng, is a highly valued woody medicinal plant belonging to the family Araliaceae. E. senticosus produces a rich variety of saponins such as oleanane-type, noroleanane-type, 29-hydroxyoleanan-type, and lupane-type saponins. Genomic or transcriptomic approaches have not been used to investigate the saponin biosynthetic pathway in this plant.
Result: In this study, de novo sequencing was performed to select candidate genes involved in the saponin biosynthetic pathway. A half-plate 454 pyrosequencing run produced 627,923 high-quality reads with an average sequence length of 422 bases. De novo assembly generated 72,811 unique sequences, including 15,217 contigs and 57,594 singletons. Approximately 48,300 (66.3%) unique sequences were annotated using BLAST similarity searches. All of the mevalonate pathway genes for saponin biosynthesis starting from acetyl-CoA were isolated. Moreover, 206 reads of cytochrome P450 (CYP) and 145 reads of uridine diphosphate glycosyltransferase (UGT) sequences were isolated. Based on methyl jasmonate (MeJA) treatment and real-time PCR (qPCR) analysis, 3 CYPs and 3 UGTs were finally selected as candidate genes involved in the saponin biosynthetic pathway.
Conclusions: The identified sequences associated with saponin biosynthesis will facilitate the study of the functional genomics of saponin biosynthesis and genetic engineering of E. senticosus.