Open Access Research article

Transcriptome resources and functional characterization of monoterpene synthases for two host species of the mountain pine beetle, lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana)

Dawn E Hall1, Macaire M S Yuen1, Sharon Jancsik1, Alfonso Lara Quesada1, Harpreet K Dullat1, Maria Li1, Hannah Henderson1, Adriana Arango-Velez2, Nancy Y Liao3, Roderick T Docking3, Simon K Chan3, Janice EK Cooke2, Colette Breuil4, Steven JM Jones3, Christopher I Keeling1 and Jörg Bohlmann1*

Author Affiliations

1 Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, 2185 East Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

2 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada

3 British Columbia Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia V5Z 4E6, Canada

4 Department of Wood Sciences, University of British Columbia, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:80  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-80

Published: 16 May 2013



The mountain pine beetle (MPB, Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic has affected lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) across an area of more than 18 million hectares of pine forests in western Canada, and is a threat to the boreal jack pine (Pinus banksiana) forest. Defence of pines against MPB and associated fungal pathogens, as well as other pests, involves oleoresin monoterpenes, which are biosynthesized by families of terpene synthases (TPSs). Volatile monoterpenes also serve as host recognition cues for MPB and as precursors for MPB pheromones. The genes responsible for terpene biosynthesis in jack pine and lodgepole pine were previously unknown.


We report the generation and quality assessment of assembled transcriptome resources for lodgepole pine and jack pine using Sanger, Roche 454, and Illumina sequencing technologies. Assemblies revealed transcripts for approximately 20,000 - 30,000 genes from each species and assembly analyses led to the identification of candidate full-length prenyl transferase, TPS, and P450 genes of oleoresin biosynthesis. We cloned and functionally characterized, via expression of recombinant proteins in E. coli, nine different jack pine and eight different lodgepole pine mono-TPSs. The newly identified lodgepole pine and jack pine mono-TPSs include (+)-α-pinene synthases, (-)-α-pinene synthases, (-)-β-pinene synthases, (+)-3-carene synthases, and (-)-β-phellandrene synthases from each of the two species.


In the absence of genome sequences, transcriptome assemblies are important for defence gene discovery in lodgepole pine and jack pine, as demonstrated here for the terpenoid pathway genes. The product profiles of the functionally annotated mono-TPSs described here can account for the major monoterpene metabolites identified in lodgepole pine and jack pine.

Conifer defence; Pine oleoresin; Terpenoid biosynthesis; Metabolite profile; Prenyl transferase; Cytochrome P450; Conifer genome