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The opium poppy genome and morphinan production

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Science  19 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6412, pp. 343-347
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat4096

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Poppy genome reveals evolution of opiates

The opium poppy has been a source of painkillers since Neolithic times. Attendant risks of addiction threaten many today. Guo et al. now deliver a draft of the opium poppy genome, which encompasses 2.72 gigabases assembled into 11 chromosomes and predicts more than 50,000 protein-coding genes. A particularly complex gene cluster contains many critical enzymes in the metabolic pathway that generates the alkaloid drugs noscapine and morphinan.

Science, this issue p. 343

Abstract

Morphinan-based painkillers are derived from opium poppy (Papaver somniferum L.). We report a draft of the opium poppy genome, with 2.72 gigabases assembled into 11 chromosomes with contig N50 and scaffold N50 of 1.77 and 204 megabases, respectively. Synteny analysis suggests a whole-genome duplication at ~7.8 million years ago and ancient segmental or whole-genome duplication(s) that occurred before the Papaveraceae-Ranunculaceae divergence 110 million years ago. Syntenic blocks representative of phthalideisoquinoline and morphinan components of a benzylisoquinoline alkaloid cluster of 15 genes provide insight into how this cluster evolved. Paralog analysis identified P450 and oxidoreductase genes that combined to form the STORR gene fusion essential for morphinan biosynthesis in opium poppy. Thus, gene duplication, rearrangement, and fusion events have led to evolution of specialized metabolic products in opium poppy.

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