The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) synthesizes the highly valuable monoterpene indole alkaloids (MIAs) through a long metabolic route initiated by the 2C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway. In leaves, a complex compartmentation of the MIA biosynthetic pathway occurs at both the cellular and subcellular levels, notably for some gene products of the MEP pathway. To get a complete overview of the pathway organization, we cloned four genes encoding missing enzymes involved in the MEP pathway before conducting a systematic analysis of transcript distribution and protein subcellular localization. RNA in situ hybridization revealed that all MEP pathway genes were coordinately and mainly expressed in internal phloem-associated parenchyma of young leaves, reinforcing the role of this tissue in MIA biosynthesis. At the subcellular level, transient cell transformation and expression of fluorescent protein fusions showed that all MEP pathway enzymes were targeted to plastids. Surprisingly, two isoforms of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase and 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase initially exhibited an artifactual aggregated pattern of localization due to high protein accumulation. Immunogold combined with transmission electron microscopy, transient transformations performed with a low amount of transforming DNA and fusion/deletion experiments established that both enzymes were rather diffuse in stroma and stromules of plastids as also observed for the last six enzymes of the pathway. Taken together, these results provide new insights into a potential role of stromules in enhancing MIA precursor exchange with other cell compartments to favor metabolic fluxes towards the MIA biosynthesis.
Keywords: 2C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate pathway; Catharanthus roseus; GFP imaging; alkaloids; compartmentation; localization artifact; stromules.