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Transcriptomic profiling reveals MEP pathway contributing to ginsenoside biosynthesis in Panax ginseng

Le Xue, Zilong He, Xiaochun Bi, Wei Xu, Ting Wei, Shuangxiu Wu, Songnian Hu
BMC Genomics 2019 May 17, 20 (1): 383

BACKGROUND: Panax ginseng C. A. Mey is one of famous medicinal herb plant species. Its major bioactive compounds are various ginsenosides in roots and rhizomes. It is commonly accepted that ginsenosides are synthesized from terpene precursors, IPP and DMAPP, through the cytoplasmic mevalonate (MVA) pathway. Another plastic 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway was proved also contributing to ginsenoside generation in the roots of P. ginseng by using specific chemical inhibitors recently. But their gene expression characteristics are still under reveal in P. ginseng. With the development of the high-throughput next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies, we have opportunities to discover more about the complex ginsenoside biosynthesis pathways in P. ginseng.

RESULTS: We carried out deep RNA sequencing and comprehensive analyses on the ginseng root samples of 1-5 years old and five different tissues of 5 years old ginseng plants. The de novo assembly totally generated 48,165 unigenes, including 380 genes related to ginsenoside biosynthesis and all the genes encoding the enzymes of the MEP pathway and the MVA pathway. We further illustrated the gene expression profiles related to ginsenoside biosynthesis among 1-5 year-old roots and different tissues of 5 year-old ginseng plants. Particularly for the first time, we revealed that the gene transcript abundances of the MEP pathway were similar to those of the MVA pathway in ginseng roots but higher in ginseng leaves. The IspD was predicated to be the rate-limiting enzyme in the MEP pathway through both co-expression network and gene expression profile analyses.

CONCLUSIONS: At the transcriptional level, the MEP pathway has similar contribution to ginsenoside biosynthesis in ginseng roots, but much higher in ginseng leaves, compared with the MVA pathway. The IspD might be the key enzyme for ginsenoside generation through the MEP pathway. These results provide new information for further synthetic biology study on ginsenoside metabolic regulation.


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