Expression of the Arabidopsis feedback-insensitive anthranilate synthase holoenzyme and tryptophan decarboxylase genes in Catharanthus roseus hairy roots

Seung Beom Hong, Christie A.M. Peebles, Jacqueline V. Shanks, Ka Yiu San, Susan I. Gibson

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71 Scopus citations


In plants, the indole pathway provides precursors for a variety of secondary metabolites. In Catharanthus roseus, a decarboxylated derivative of tryptophan, tryptamine, is a building block for the biosynthesis of terpenoid indole alkaloids. Previously, we manipulated the indole pathway by introducing an Arabidopsis feedback-insensitive anthranilate synthase (AS) α subunit (trp5) cDNA and C. roseus tryptophan decarboxylase gene (TDC) under the control of a glucocorticoid-inducible promoter into C. roseus hairy roots [Hughes, E.H., Hong, S.-B., Gibson, S.I., Shanks, J.V., San, K.-Y. 2004a. Expression of a feedback-resistant anthranilate synthase in Catharanthus roseus hairy roots provides evidence for tight regulation of terpenoid indole alkaloid levels. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 86, 718-727; Hughes, E.H., Hong, S.-B., Gibson, S.I., Shanks, J.V., San, K.-Y. 2004b. Metabolic engineering of the indole pathway in Catharanthus roseus hairy roots and increased accumulation of tryptamine and serpentine. Metabol. Eng. 6, 268-276]. Inducible expression of either or both transgenes did not lead to significant increases in overall alkaloid levels despite the considerable accumulation of tryptophan and tryptamine. In an attempt to more successfully engineer the indole pathway, a wild type Arabidopsis ASβ subunit (ASB1) cDNA was constitutively expressed along with the inducible expression of trp5 and TDC in C. roseus hairy roots. Transgenic hairy roots expressing both trp5 and ASB1 show a significantly greater resistance to feedback inhibition of AS activity by tryptophan than plants expressing only trp5. In fact, a 4.5-fold higher concentration of tryptophan is required to achieve 50% inhibition of AS activity in plants overexpressing both genes than in plants expressing only trp5. In addition, upon a 3 day induction during the exponential phase, a trp5:ASB1 hairy root line produced 1.8 times more tryptophan (specific yield ca. 3.0 mg g-1 dry weight) than the trp5 hairy root line. Concurrently, tryptamine levels increase up to 9-fold in the induced trp5:ASB1 line (specific yield ca. 1.9 mg g-1 dry weight) as compared with only a 4-fold tryptamine increase in the induced trp5 line (specific yield ca. 0.3 mg g-1 dry weight). However, endogenous TDC activities of both trp5:ASB1 and trp5 lines remain unchanged irrespective of induction. When TDC is ectopically expressed together with trp5 and ASB1, the induced trp5:ASB1:TDC hairy root line accumulates tryptamine up to 14-fold higher than the uninduced line. In parallel with the remarkable accumulation of tryptamine upon induction, alkaloid accumulation levels were significantly changed depending on the duration and dosage of induction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-38
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 9 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors express our gratitude to Dr. Eugene Nester at the University of Washington for providing Agrobacterium rhizogenes 15834 strain and Dr. Gerald Fink at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research for providing the Arabidopsis ASB1 clone. This work was supported by NSF grants BES-0435011 (S.I.G. and K.-Y.S.) and BES-0224600 (J.V.S.).


  • Anthranilate synthase holoenzyme
  • Catharanthus roseus
  • Hairy roots
  • Tryptophan decarboxylase


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