Genomic insights into the evolution of the nicotine biosynthesis pathway in tobacco


Authored by  M Kajikawa*, N Sierro, H Kawaguchi*, N Bakaher, NV Ivanov, T Hashimoto*, T Shoji*

Published in Plant Physiology    
* This author is not affiliated with PMI.

Abstract

In tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum), nicotine is the predominant alkaloid. It is produced in the roots and accumulated mainly in the leaves. Jasmonates play a central signaling role in damage-induced nicotine formation. The genome sequence of tobacco provides us an almost complete inventory of structural and regulatory genes involved in nicotine pathway. Phylogenetic and expression analyses revealed a series of structural genes of the nicotine pathway, forming a regulon, under the control of jasmonate-responsive ETHYLENE RESPONSE FACTOR (ERF) transcription factors. The duplication of NAD and polyamine metabolic pathways and the subsequent recruitment of duplicated primary metabolic genes into the nicotine biosynthesis regulon were suggested to be the drivers for pyridine and pyrrolidine ring formation steps early in the pathway. Transcriptional regulation by ERF and cooperatively acting MYC2 transcription factors are corroborated by the frequent occurrence of cognate cis-regulatory elements of the factors in the promoter regions of the downstream structural genes. The allotetraploid tobacco has homologous clusters of ERF genes on different chromosomes, which are possibly derived from two ancestral diploids and include either nicotine-controlling ERF189 or ERF199. A large chromosomal deletion was found within one allele of the nicotine-controlling NICOTINE2 locus, which is part of one of the ERF gene clusters, and which has been used to breed tobacco cultivars with a low-nicotine content.