Evolution of heteromeric nitrilase complexes in Poaceae with new functions in nitrile metabolism.
ABSTRACT: Members of the nitrilase 4 (NIT4) family of higher plants catalyze the conversion of beta-cyanoalanine to aspartic acid and asparagine, a key step in cyanide detoxification. Grasses (Poaceae) possess two different NIT4 homologs (NIT4A and NIT4B), but none of the recombinant Poaceae enzymes analyzed showed activity with beta-cyanoalanine, whereas protein extracts of the same plants clearly posses this activity. Sorghum bicolor contains three NIT4 isoforms SbNIT4A, SbNIT4B1, and SbNIT4B2. Individually, each isoform does not possess enzymatic activity whereas the heteromeric complexes SbNIT4A/B1 and SbNIT4A/B2 hydrolyze beta-cyanoalanine with high activity. In addition, the SbNIT4A/B2 complex accepts additional substrates, the best being 4-hydroxyphenylacetonitrile. Corresponding NIT4A and NIT4B isoforms from other Poaceae species can functionally complement the sorghum isoforms in these complexes. Site-specific mutagenesis of the active site cysteine residue demonstrates that hydrolysis of beta-cyanoalanine is catalyzed by the NIT4A isoform in both complexes whereas hydrolysis of 4-hydroxyphenylacetonitrile occurs at the NIT4B2 isoform. 4-Hydroxyphenylacetonitrile was shown to be an in vitro breakdown product of the cyanogenic glycoside dhurrin, a main constituent in S. bicolor. The results indicate that the SbNIT4A/B2 heterocomplex plays a key role in an endogenous turnover of dhurrin proceeding via 4-hydroxyphenylacetonitrile and thereby avoiding release of toxic hydrogen cyanide. The operation of this pathway would enable plants to use cyanogenic glycosides as transportable and remobilizable nitrogenous storage compounds. Through combinatorial biochemistry and neofunctionalizations, the small family of nitrilases has gained diverse biological functions in nitrile metabolism.
Project description:Focused and nontargeted approaches were used to assess the impact associated with introduction of new high-flux pathways in Arabidopsis thaliana by genetic engineering. Transgenic A. thaliana plants expressing the entire biosynthetic pathway for the tyrosine-derived cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin as accomplished by insertion of CYP79A1, CYP71E1, and UGT85B1 from Sorghum bicolor were shown to accumulate 4% dry-weight dhurrin with marginal inadvertent effects on plant morphology, free amino acid pools, transcriptome, and metabolome. In a similar manner, plants expressing only CYP79A1 accumulated 3% dry weight of the tyrosine-derived glucosinolate, p-hydroxybenzylglucosinolate with no morphological pleitropic effects. In contrast, insertion of CYP79A1 plus CYP71E1 resulted in stunted plants, transcriptome alterations, accumulation of numerous glucosides derived from detoxification of intermediates in the dhurrin pathway, and in loss of the brassicaceae-specific UV protectants sinapoyl glucose and sinapoyl malate and kaempferol glucosides. The accumulation of glucosides in the plants expressing CYP79A1 and CYP71E1 was not accompanied by induction of glycosyltransferases, demonstrating that plants are constantly prepared to detoxify xenobiotics. The pleiotrophic effects observed in plants expressing sorghum CYP79A1 and CYP71E1 were complemented by retransformation with S. bicolor UGT85B. These results demonstrate that insertion of high-flux pathways directing synthesis and intracellular storage of high amounts of a cyanogenic glucoside or a glucosinolate is achievable in transgenic A. thaliana plants with marginal inadvertent effects on the transcriptome and metabolome.
Project description:Pseudomonas pseudoalcaligenes CECT 5344 is a bacterium able to assimilate cyanide as a sole nitrogen source. Under this growth condition, a 3-cyanoalanine nitrilase enzymatic activity was induced. This activity was encoded by nit4, one of the four nitrilase genes detected in the genome of this bacterium, and its expression in Escherichia coli enabled the recombinant strain to fully assimilate 3-cyanoalanine. P. pseudoalcaligenes CECT 5344 showed a weak growth level with 3-cyanoalanine as the N source, unless KCN was also added. Moreover, a nit4 knockout mutant of P. pseudoalcaligenes CECT 5344 became severely impaired in its ability to grow with 3-cyanoalanine and cyanide as nitrogen sources. The native enzyme expressed in E. coli was purified up to electrophoretic homogeneity and biochemically characterized. Nit4 seems to be specific for 3-cyanoalanine, and the amount of ammonium derived from the enzymatic activity doubled in the presence of exogenously added asparaginase activity, which demonstrated that the Nit4 enzyme had both 3-cyanoalanine nitrilase and hydratase activities. The nit4 gene is located downstream of the cyanide resistance transcriptional unit containing cio1 genes, whose expression levels are under the positive control of cyanide. Real-time PCR experiments revealed that nit4 expression was also positively regulated by cyanide in both minimal and LB media. These results suggest that this gene cluster including cio1 and nit4 could be involved both in cyanide resistance and in its assimilation by P. pseudoalcaligenes CECT 5344.IMPORTANCE Cyanide is a highly toxic molecule present in some industrial wastes due to its application in several manufacturing processes, such as gold mining and the electroplating industry. The biodegradation of cyanide from contaminated wastes could be an attractive alternative to physicochemical treatment. P. pseudoalcaligenes CECT 5344 is a bacterial strain able to assimilate cyanide under alkaline conditions, thus avoiding its volatilization as HCN. This paper describes and characterizes an enzyme (Nit4) induced by cyanide that is probably involved in cyanide assimilation. The biochemical characterization of Nit4 provides a segment for building a cyanide assimilation pathway in P. pseudoalcaligenes This information could be useful for understanding, and hopefully improving, the mechanisms involved in bacterial cyanide biodegradation and its application in the treatment of cyanide-containing wastes.
Project description:Genomic gene clusters for the biosynthesis of chemical defence compounds are increasingly identified in plant genomes. We previously reported the independent evolution of biosynthetic gene clusters for cyanogenic glucoside biosynthesis in three plant lineages. Here we report that the gene cluster for the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin in Sorghum bicolor additionally contains a gene, SbMATE2, encoding a transporter of the multidrug and toxic compound extrusion (MATE) family, which is co-expressed with the biosynthetic genes. The predicted localisation of SbMATE2 to the vacuolar membrane was demonstrated experimentally by transient expression of a SbMATE2-YFP fusion protein and confocal microscopy. Transport studies in Xenopus laevis oocytes demonstrate that SbMATE2 is able to transport dhurrin. In addition, SbMATE2 was able to transport non-endogenous cyanogenic glucosides, but not the anthocyanin cyanidin 3-O-glucoside or the glucosinolate indol-3-yl-methyl glucosinolate. The genomic co-localisation of a transporter gene with the biosynthetic genes producing the transported compound is discussed in relation to the role self-toxicity of chemical defence compounds may play in the formation of gene clusters.
Project description:Cyanogenic glycosides are defense compounds found in a wide range of plant species, including many crops. We demonstrate that the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin, naturally found in sorghum, can be produced at high titers in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, constituting the first report of cyanogenic glycoside production in a microbe. Genetic modifications to increase the supply of the dhurrin precursor tyrosine enabled dhurrin production in excess of 80?mg/L. The dhurrin-producing yeast strain was used as a chassis to investigate previously uncharacterized enzymes identified close to the biosynthetic gene cluster containing the dhurrin pathway enzymes. This work shows the potential of heterologous expression in yeast to facilitate investigations of plant cyanogenic glycoside pathways.
Project description:Whole genome sequencing has allowed rapid progress in the application of forward genetics in model species. In this study, we demonstrated an application of next-generation sequencing for forward genetics in a complex crop genome. We sequenced an ethyl methanesulfonate-induced mutant of Sorghum bicolor defective in hydrogen cyanide release and identified the causal mutation. A workflow identified the causal polymorphism relative to the reference BTx623 genome by integrating data from single nucleotide polymorphism identification, prior information about candidate gene(s) implicated in cyanogenesis, mutation spectra, and polymorphisms likely to affect phenotypic changes. A point mutation resulting in a premature stop codon in the coding sequence of dhurrinase2, which encodes a protein involved in the dhurrin catabolic pathway, was responsible for the acyanogenic phenotype. Cyanogenic glucosides are not cyanogenic compounds but their cyanohydrins derivatives do release cyanide. The mutant accumulated the glucoside, dhurrin, but failed to efficiently release cyanide upon tissue disruption. Thus, we tested the effects of cyanide release on insect herbivory in a genetic background in which accumulation of cyanogenic glucoside is unchanged. Insect preference choice experiments and herbivory measurements demonstrate a deterrent effect of cyanide release capacity, even in the presence of wild-type levels of cyanogenic glucoside accumulation. Our gene cloning method substantiates the value of (1) a sequenced genome, (2) a strongly penetrant and easily measurable phenotype, and (3) a workflow to pinpoint a causal mutation in crop genomes and accelerate in the discovery of gene function in the postgenomic era.
Project description:Plant chloroplasts are light-driven cell factories that have great potential to act as a chassis for metabolic engineering applications. Using plant chloroplasts, we demonstrate how photosynthetic reducing power can drive a metabolic pathway to synthesise a bio-active natural product. For this purpose, we stably engineered the dhurrin pathway from Sorghum bicolor into the chloroplasts of Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco). Dhurrin is a cyanogenic glucoside and its synthesis from the amino acid tyrosine is catalysed by two membrane-bound cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP79A1 and CYP71E1) and a soluble glucosyltransferase (UGT85B1), and is dependent on electron transfer from a P450 oxidoreductase. The entire pathway was introduced into the chloroplast by integrating CYP79A1, CYP71E1, and UGT85B1 into a neutral site of the N. tabacum chloroplast genome. The two P450s and the UGT85B1 were functional when expressed in the chloroplasts and converted endogenous tyrosine into dhurrin using electrons derived directly from the photosynthetic electron transport chain, without the need for the presence of an NADPH-dependent P450 oxidoreductase. The dhurrin produced in the engineered plants amounted to 0.1-0.2% of leaf dry weight compared to 6% in sorghum. The results obtained pave the way for plant P450s involved in the synthesis of economically important compounds to be engineered into the thylakoid membrane of chloroplasts, and demonstrate that their full catalytic cycle can be driven directly by photosynthesis-derived electrons.
Project description:Localisation of metabolites in sorghum coleoptiles using Raman hyperspectral imaging analysis was compared in wild type plants and mutants that lack cyanogenic glucosides. This novel method allows high spatial resolution in situ localization by detecting functional groups associated with cyanogenic glucosides using vibrational spectroscopy. Raman hyperspectral imaging revealed that dhurrin was found mainly surrounding epidermal, cortical and vascular tissue, with the greatest amount in cortical tissue. Numerous "hotspots" demonstrated dhurrin to be located within both cell walls and cytoplasm adpressed towards the plasmamembrane and not in the vacuole as previously reported. The high concentration of dhurrin in the outer cortical and epidermal cell layers is consistent with its role in defence against herbivory. This demonstrates the ability of Raman hyperspectral imaging to locate cyanogenic glucosides in intact tissues, avoiding possible perturbations and imprecision that may accompany methods that rely on bulk tissue extraction methods, such as protoplast isolation.
Project description:Cyanogenic glucosides are among the most widespread defense chemicals of plants. Upon plant tissue disruption, these glucosides are hydrolyzed to a reactive hydroxynitrile that releases toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN). Yet many mite and lepidopteran species can thrive on plants defended by cyanogenic glucosides. The nature of the enzyme known to detoxify HCN to ?-cyanoalanine in arthropods has remained enigmatic. Here we identify this enzyme by transcriptome analysis and functional expression. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the gene is a member of the cysteine synthase family horizontally transferred from bacteria to phytophagous mites and Lepidoptera. The recombinant mite enzyme had both ?-cyanoalanine synthase and cysteine synthase activity but enzyme kinetics showed that cyanide detoxification activity was strongly favored. Our results therefore suggest that an ancient horizontal transfer of a gene originally involved in sulfur amino acid biosynthesis in bacteria was co-opted by herbivorous arthropods to detoxify plant produced cyanide.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02365.001.
Project description:Insects often release noxious substances for their defence. Larvae of Zygaena filipendulae (Lepidoptera) secrete viscous and cyanogenic glucoside-containing droplets, whose effectiveness was associated with their physical and chemical properties. The droplets glued mandibles and legs of potential predators together and immobilised them. Droplets were characterised by a matrix of an aqueous solution of glycine-rich peptides (H-WG11-NH2) with significant amounts of proteins and glucose. Among the proteins, defensive proteins such as protease inhibitors, proteases and oxidases were abundant. The neurotoxin ?-cyanoalanine was also found in the droplets. Despite the presence of cyanogenic glucosides, which release toxic hydrogen cyanide after hydrolysis by a specific ?-glucosidase, the only ?-glucosidase identified in the droplets (ZfBGD1) was inactive against cyanogenic glucosides. Accordingly, droplets did not release hydrogen cyanide, unless they were mixed with specific ?-glucosidases present in the Zygaena haemolymph. Droplets secreted onto the cuticle hardened and formed sharp crystalline-like precipitates that may act as mandible abrasives to chewing predators. Hardening followed water evaporation and formation of antiparallel ?-sheets of the peptide oligomers. Consequently, after mild irritation, Zygaena larvae deter predators by viscous and hardening droplets that contain defence proteins and ?-cyanoalanine. After severe injury, droplets may mix with exuding haemolymph to release hydrogen cyanide.
Project description:Plants have evolved a variety of mechanisms for dealing with insect herbivory among which chemical defense through secondary metabolites plays a prominent role. Physiological, behavioural and sensorical adaptations to these chemicals provide herbivores with selective advantages allowing them to diversify within the newly occupied ecological niche. In turn, this may influence the evolution of plant metabolism giving rise to e.g. new chemical defenses. The association of Pierid butterflies and plants of the Brassicales has been cited as an illustrative example of this adaptive process known as 'coevolutionary armsrace'. All plants of the Brassicales are defended by the glucosinolate-myrosinase system to which larvae of cabbage white butterflies and related species are biochemically adapted through a gut nitrile-specifier protein. Here, we provide evidence by metabolite profiling and enzyme assays that metabolism of benzylglucosinolate in Pieris rapae results in release of equimolar amounts of cyanide, a potent inhibitor of cellular respiration. We further demonstrate that P. rapae larvae develop on transgenic Arabidopsis plants with ectopic production of the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin without ill effects. Metabolite analyses and fumigation experiments indicate that cyanide is detoxified by ?-cyanoalanine synthase and rhodanese in the larvae. Based on these results as well as on the facts that benzylglucosinolate was one of the predominant glucosinolates in ancient Brassicales and that ancient Brassicales lack nitrilases involved in alternative pathways, we propose that the ability of Pierid species to safely handle cyanide contributed to the primary host shift from Fabales to Brassicales that occured about 75 million years ago and was followed by Pierid species diversification.