CYP76B74 Catalyzes the 3''-Hydroxylation of Geranylhydroquinone in Shikonin Biosynthesis

Plant Physiol. 2019 Feb;179(2):402-414. doi: 10.1104/pp.18.01056. Epub 2018 Nov 29.


Shikonin and its derivatives are the most abundant naphthoquinone pigments formed in species of the medicinally and economically valuable Boraginaceae. A key step in the shikonin biosynthetic pathway, namely the C-3'' hydroxylation of the prenylated phenolic intermediate geranylhydroquinone, is expected to be catalyzed by a cytochrome P450. To identify cytochrome P450 candidates with transcription profiles similar to those of genes known to be involved in shikonin biosynthesis, we carried out coexpression analysis of transcriptome data sets of shikonin-proficient and shikonin-deficient cell lines and examined the spatial expression of candidate genes in different organs of Arnebia euchroma In biochemical assays using geranylhydroquinone as the substrate, CYP76B74 exhibited geranylhydroquinone 3''-hydroxylase activity and produced 3''-hydroxy-geranylhydroquinone. In CYP76B74 RNA interference A. euchroma hairy roots, shikonin derivative accumulation decreased dramatically, which demonstrated that CYP76B74 is required for shikonin biosynthesis in the plant. Phylogenetic analysis confirmed that CYP76B74 belonged to the CYP76B subfamily and was most likely derived from an ancestral geraniol 10-hydroxylase. In a subcellular localization analysis, a GFP-CYP76B74 fusion localized to endoplasmic reticulum membranes. Our results demonstrate that CYP76B74 catalyzes the key hydroxylation step in shikonin biosynthesis with high efficiency. The characterization of the CYP76B74 described here paves the way for further exploration of the ring closure reactions generating the naphthoquinone skeleton as well as for the alternative metabolism of geranylhydroquinone 3''-hydroxylase to dihydroechinofuran.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Boraginaceae / genetics
  • Boraginaceae / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Hydroxylation
  • Naphthoquinones / metabolism*
  • Oryza / genetics
  • Oryza / metabolism
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • RNA Interference
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Terpenes / metabolism*


  • Naphthoquinones
  • Plant Proteins
  • Terpenes
  • geranylhydroquinone
  • shikonin
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System