Pyrrolizidine and quinolizidine alkaloid biosynthesis in nodule forming species from the genistoid clade (Fabaceae)

Fabaceae, also frequently referred to as legumes, are a plant family whose representatives form a symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and harbor them in specially formed root-nodules. For defense against herbivores, plants within the monophyletic group of Genistoids in particular produce toxic alkaloids, which belong to either the pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) or quinolizidine alkaloids (QAs). In both biosynthetic pathways, the first specific enzymes (for PAs homospermidine synthase, HSS, and for QAs lysine decarboxylase, LDC) have been studied in several species in the past. Interestingly, both enzymes arose by gene duplication starting from an enzyme of primary metabolism. Data show that PA biosynthesis developed several times independently in various plant lineages during evolution. The site of biosynthesis appears to be often species specific, whereas for QA biosynthesis, leaves are described as site of synthesis.

For the fabaceous species Crotalaria spectabilis it was already shown that PA biosynthesis is dependent on the formation of root-nodules. From this point of view, two main questions arose, which were investigated within this work: 1. Which are further enzymes of PA biosynthesis 2. Which influence has nodulation on QA and PA biosynthesis?


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