Characterization of a dynamic metabolon producing the defense compound dhurrin in sorghum

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Science  18 Nov 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6314, pp. 890-893
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2347

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Metabolite channeling by a dynamic metabolon

The specialized metabolite dhurrin breaks down into cyanide when plant cell walls have been chewed, deterring insect pests. Laursen et al. found that the enzymes that synthesize dhurrin in sorghum assemble as a metabolon in lipid membranes (see the Perspective by Dsatmaichi and Facchini). The dynamic nature of metabolon assembly and disassembly provides dhurrin on an as-needed basis. Membrane-anchored cytochrome P450s cooperated with a soluble glucosyltransferase to channel intermediates toward efficient dhurrin production.

Science, this issue p. 890; see also p. 829


Metabolic highways may be orchestrated by the assembly of sequential enzymes into protein complexes, or metabolons, to facilitate efficient channeling of intermediates and to prevent undesired metabolic cross-talk while maintaining metabolic flexibility. Here we report the isolation of the dynamic metabolon that catalyzes the formation of the cyanogenic glucoside dhurrin, a defense compound produced in sorghum plants. The metabolon was reconstituted in liposomes, which demonstrated the importance of membrane surface charge and the presence of the glucosyltransferase for metabolic channeling. We used in planta fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy to study functional and structural characteristics of the metabolon. Understanding the regulation of biosynthetic metabolons offers opportunities to optimize synthetic biology approaches for efficient production of high-value products in heterologous hosts.

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