Monoterpene synthases from grand fir (Abies grandis). cDNA isolation, characterization, and functional expression of myrcene synthase, (-)-(4S)-limonene synthase, and (-)-(1S,5S)-pinene synthase

J Biol Chem. 1997 Aug 29;272(35):21784-92. doi: 10.1074/jbc.272.35.21784.


Grand fir (Abies grandis) has been developed as a model system for studying defensive oleoresin formation in conifers in response to insect attack or other injury. The turpentine fraction of the oleoresin is a complex mixture of monoterpene (C10) olefins in which (-)-limonene and (-)-alpha- and (-)-beta-pinene are prominent components; (-)-limonene and (-)-pinene synthase activities are also induced upon stem wounding. A similarity based cloning strategy yielded three new cDNA species from a wounded stem cDNA library that appeared to encode three distinct monoterpene synthases. After expression in Escherichia coli and enzyme assay with geranyl diphosphate as substrate, subsequent analysis of the terpene products by chiral phase gas chromatography and mass spectrometry showed that these sequences encoded a (-)-limonene synthase, a myrcene synthase, and a (-)-pinene synthase that produces both alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. In properties and reaction stereochemistry, the recombinant enzymes resemble the corresponding native monoterpene synthases of wound-induced grand fir stem. The deduced amino acid sequences indicated the limonene synthase to be 637 residues in length (73.5 kDa), the myrcene synthase to be 627 residues in length (72.5 kDa), and the pinene synthase to be 628 residues in length (71.5 kDa); all of these monoterpene synthases appear to be translated as preproteins bearing an amino-terminal plastid targeting sequence. Sequence comparison revealed that these monoterpene synthases from grand fir resemble sesquiterpene (C15) synthases and diterpene (C20) synthases from conifers more closely than other monoterpene synthases from angiosperm species. This similarity between extant monoterpene, sesquiterpene, and diterpene synthases of gymnosperms is surprising since functional diversification of this enzyme class is assumed to have occurred over 300 million years ago. Wound-induced accumulation of transcripts for monoterpene synthases was demonstrated by RNA blot hybridization using probes derived from the three monoterpene synthase cDNAs. The availability of cDNA species encoding these monoterpene synthases will allow an understanding of the regulation of oleoresin formation in conifers and will ultimately permit the transgenic manipulation of this defensive secretion to enhance resistance to insects. These cDNAs also furnish tools for defining structure-function relationships in this group of catalysts that generate acyclic, monocyclic, and bicyclic olefin products.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis Proteins*
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • DNA, Complementary / isolation & purification
  • DNA, Plant / chemistry
  • DNA, Plant / isolation & purification*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Intramolecular Lyases*
  • Isomerases / chemistry
  • Isomerases / genetics*
  • Isomerases / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monoterpenes*
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Terpenes / metabolism*
  • Trees / enzymology*
  • Trees / genetics


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA, Plant
  • Monoterpenes
  • RNA, Plant
  • Terpenes
  • beta-myrcene
  • Isomerases
  • Intramolecular Lyases
  • TPS10 protein, Arabidopsis
  • pinene cyclase I

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF006193
  • GENBANK/U87908
  • GENBANK/U87909