Author(s): Warzecha H, Frank A, Peer M, Gillam EM, Guengerich FP,
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Abstract The production of the blue dye indigo in plants has been assumed to be a possible route to the introduction of novel coloration into flowers or fibres. As the human cytochrome P450 mono-oxygenase 2A6 (CYP2A6) can form indigo in bacterial cultures, we investigated whether the expression of the corresponding cDNA in transgenic plants could lead to indigo formation. In a first attempt, we generated tobacco cell suspension cultures expressing the cDNA encoding human CYP2A6. Supplementation of the medium with indole led to the generation of indican (3-hydroxyindole-beta-d-glucoside), a metabolite usually exclusively present in indigoferous dye plants. Hence, the recombinant CYP2A6 converted indole to the reactive metabolite 3-hydroxyindole (indoxyl), whereas rapid glucosylation is obviously conducted by ubiquitous plant glucosyl transferases (GTs). Interestingly, of nine additionally tested plant cell suspension cultures from various plant families, five were also capable of the formation of indican after indole supplementation, although this metabolism was more pronounced in transgenic tobacco cell suspension cultures expressing CYP2A6 cDNA. To evaluate whether indican or even indigo could be produced in whole plants, we generated transgenic tobacco plants harbouring active CYP2A6 together with an indole synthase (BX1) from maize. The genetically engineered tobacco plants accumulated indican, but did not develop a blue coloration. Although the de novo formation of indican in transgenic tobacco plants hampered indigo formation, it supports the contention that biosynthetic pathways can be efficiently mimicked by metabolic engineering.
This article was published in Plant Biotechnol J
and referenced in Journal of Petroleum & Environmental Biotechnology