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Open Access Research article

Cell-specific expression of tryptophan decarboxylase and 10-hydroxygeraniol oxidoreductase, key genes involved in camptothecin biosynthesis in Camptotheca acuminata Decne (Nyssaceae)

Alessio Valletta1, Livio Trainotti2, Anna Rita Santamaria1 and Gabriella Pasqua1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Plant Biology, "Sapienza" University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy

2 Department of Biology, University of Padua, Via Trieste 75, 35121 Padua, Italy

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BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:69  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-69

Published: 19 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Camptotheca acuminata is a major natural source of the terpenoid indole alkaloid camptothecin (CPT). At present, little is known about the cellular distribution of the biosynthesis of CPT, which would be useful knowledge for developing new strategies and technologies for improving alkaloid production.

Results

The pattern of CPT accumulation was compared with the expression pattern of some genes involved in CPT biosynthesis in C. acuminata [i.e., Ca-TDC1 and Ca-TDC2 (encoding for tryptophan decarboxylase) and Ca-HGO (encoding for 10-hydroxygeraniol oxidoreductase)]. Both CPT accumulation and gene expression were investigated in plants at different degrees of development and in plantlets subjected to drought-stress. In all organs, CPT accumulation was detected in epidermal idioblasts, in some glandular trichomes, and in groups of idioblast cells localized in parenchyma tissues. Drought-stress caused an increase in CPT accumulation and in the number of glandular trichomes containing CPT, whereas no increase in epidermal or parenchymatous idioblasts was observed. In the leaf, Ca-TDC1 expression was detected in some epidermal cells and in groups of mesophyll cells but not in glandular trichomes; in the stem, it was observed in parenchyma cells of the vascular tissue; in the root, no expression was detected. Ca-TDC2 expression was observed exclusively in leaves of plantlets subjected to drought-stress, in the same sites described for Ca-TDC1. In the leaf, Ca-HGO was detected in all chlorenchyma cells; in the stem, it was observed in the same sites described for Ca-TDC1; in the root, no expression was detected.

Conclusions

The finding that the sites of CPT accumulation are not consistently the same as those in which the studied genes are expressed demonstrates an organ-to-organ and cell-to-cell translocation of CPT or its precursors.