Sesquiterpene lactone (STL) and natural rubber (NR) are characteristic isoprenoids in lettuce (Lactuca sativa). Both STL and NR co-accumulate in laticifers, pipe-like structures located along the vasculature. NR-biosynthetic genes are exclusively expressed in laticifers, but cell-type specific expression of STL-biosynthetic genes has not been studied. Here, we examined the expression pattern of germacrene A synthase (LsGAS), which catalyzes the first step in STL biosynthesis in lettuce. Quantitative PCR and Illumina read mapping revealed that the transcripts of two GAS isoforms (LsGAS1/LsGAS2) are expressed two orders of magnitude (~100-200) higher in stems than laticifers. This result implies that the cellular site for LsGAS1/2 expression is not in laticifers. To gain more insights, promoters of LsGAS1/2 were cloned and fused to β-glucuronidase (GUS), followed by transformations of lettuce with these promoter-GUS constructs. In in situ GUS assays, the GUS expression driven by the LsGAS1/2 promoters was tightly associated with vascular bundles. High-resolution microsections showed that GUS signals are not present in laticifers but are detected in the vascular parenchyma cells neighboring the laticifers. These results suggest that expression of LsGAS1/2 occurs in the parenchyma cells neighboring laticifers, while the resulting STL metabolites accumulate in laticifers. It can be inferred that active metabolite-trafficking occurs from the parenchyma cells to laticifers in lettuce.
Keywords: isoprenoid; laticifers; lettuce; natural rubber; sesquiterpene lactone.