Emerging trends in research on spatial and temporal organization of terpenoid indole alkaloid pathway in Catharanthus roseus: a literature update

Priyanka Verma, Ajay Kumar Mathur, Alka Srivastava, Archana Mathur
Protoplasma 2012, 249 (2): 255-68
Catharanthus roseus (The Madagaskar Periwinkle) plant is commercially valued for harbouring more than 130 bioactive terpenoid indole alkaloids (TIAs). Amongst these, two of the leaf-derived bisindole alkaloids-vinblastine and vincristine-are widely used in several anticancer chemotherapies. The great pharmacological values, low in planta occurrence, unavailability of synthetic substitutes and exorbitant market cost of these alkaloids have prompted scientists to understand the basic architecture and regulation of biosynthesis of these TIAs in C. roseus plant and its cultured tissues. The knowledge gathered over a period of 30 years suggests that the TIA biosynthesis is highly regulated by developmental and environmental factors and operates through a complex multi-step enzymatic network. Extensive spatial and temporal cross talking also occurs at inter- and intracellular levels in different plant organs during TIA biogenesis. A close association of indole, methylerythritol phosphate and secoiridoid monoterpenoid pathways and involvement of at least four cell types (epidermis, internal phloem-associated parenchyma, laticifers and idioblasts) and five intracellular compartments (chloroplast, vacuole, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum and cytosol) have been implicated with this biosynthetic mechanism. Accordingly, the research in this area is primarily advancing today to address and resolve six major issues namely: precise localization and expression of pathway enzymes using modern in situ RNA hybridization tools, mechanisms of intra- and intercellular trafficking of pathway intermediates, cloning and functional validation of genes coding for known or hitherto unknown pathway enzymes, mechanism of global regulation of the pathway by transcription factors, control of relative diversion of metabolite flux at crucial branch points and finally, strategising the metabolic engineering approaches to improve the productivity of the desired TIAs in plant or corresponding cultured tissues. The present literature update has been compiled to provide a brief overview of some of the emerging developments in our current understanding of TIA metabolism in C. roseus.

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