The organ-specific differential roles of rice DXS and DXR, the first two enzymes of the MEP pathway, in carotenoid metabolism in Oryza sativa leaves and seeds

BMC Plant Biol. 2020 Apr 15;20(1):167. doi: 10.1186/s12870-020-02357-9.


Background: Deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate synthase (DXS) and deoxyxylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase (DXR) are the enzymes that catalyze the first two enzyme steps of the methylerythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway to supply the isoprene building-blocks of carotenoids. Plant DXR and DXS enzymes have been reported to function differently depending on the plant species. In this study, the differential roles of rice DXS and DXR genes in carotenoid metabolism were investigated.

Results: The accumulation of carotenoids in rice seeds co-expressing OsDXS2 and stPAC was largely enhanced by 3.4-fold relative to the stPAC seeds and 315.3-fold relative to non-transgenic (NT) seeds, while the overexpression of each OsDXS2 or OsDXR caused no positive effect on the accumulation of either carotenoids or chlorophylls in leaves and seeds, suggesting that OsDXS2 functions as a rate-limiting enzyme supplying IPP/DMAPPs to seed carotenoid metabolism, but OsDXR doesn't in either leaves or seeds. The expressions of OsDXS1, OsPSY1, OsPSY2, and OsBCH2 genes were upregulated regardless of the reductions of chlorophylls and carotenoids in leaves; however, there was no significant change in the expression of most carotenogenic genes, even though there was a 315.3-fold increase in the amount of carotenoid in rice seeds. These non-proportional expression patterns in leaves and seeds suggest that those metabolic changes of carotenoids were associated with overexpression of the OsDXS2, OsDXR and stPAC transgenes, and the capacities of the intermediate biosynthetic enzymes might be much more important for those metabolic alterations than the transcript levels of intermediate biosynthetic genes are. Taken together, we propose a 'Three Faucets and Cisterns Model' about the relationship among the rate-limiting enzymes OsDXSs, OsPSYs, and OsBCHs as a "Faucet", the biosynthetic capacity of intermediate metabolites as a "Cistern", and the carotenoid accumulations as the content of "Cistern".

Conclusion: Our study suggests that OsDXS2 plays an important role as a rate-limiting enzyme supplying IPP/DMAPPs to the seed-carotenoid accumulation, and rice seed carotenoid metabolism could be largely enhanced without any significant transcriptional alteration of carotenogenic genes. Finally, the "Three Faucets and Cisterns model" presents the extenuating circumstance to elucidate rice seed carotenoid metabolism.

Keywords: A rate-limiting step; Carotenoids; MEP pathway; OsDXR; OsDXS; Rice.

MeSH terms

  • Aldose-Ketose Isomerases / genetics
  • Aldose-Ketose Isomerases / physiology*
  • Butadienes / chemical synthesis
  • Butadienes / metabolism
  • Carotenoids / metabolism*
  • Erythritol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Erythritol / genetics
  • Erythritol / physiology
  • Hemiterpenes / chemical synthesis
  • Hemiterpenes / metabolism
  • Oryza / enzymology*
  • Plant Leaves / enzymology
  • Seeds / enzymology
  • Sugar Phosphates / genetics
  • Sugar Phosphates / physiology*
  • Transferases / genetics
  • Transferases / physiology


  • 2-C-methylerythritol 4-phosphate
  • Butadienes
  • Hemiterpenes
  • Sugar Phosphates
  • isoprene
  • Carotenoids
  • 1-deoxy-D-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase
  • Transferases
  • deoxyxylulose-5-phosphate synthase
  • Aldose-Ketose Isomerases
  • Erythritol