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Cloning and molecular characterization of a glycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase (GPAT) gene from Echium (Boraginaceae) involved in the biosynthesis of cutin polyesters.

Planta 232(4):987 (2010) PMID 20658148

The glycerol-based lipid polyester called cutin is a main component of cuticle, the protective interface of aerial plant organs also controlling compound exchange with the environment. Though recent progress towards understanding of cutin biosynthesis has been made in Arabidopsis thaliana, little is known in other plants. One key step in this process is the acyl transfer reaction to the glycerol backbone. Here we report the cloning and molecular characterization of EpGPAT1, a gene encoding a glycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase (GPAT) from Echium pitardii (Boraginaceae) with high similarity to the AtGPAT4/AtGPAT8 of Arabidopsis. Quantitative analysis by qRT-PCR showed highest expression of EpGPAT1 in seeds, roots, young leaves and flowers. Acyltransferase activity of EpGPAT1 was evidenced by heterologous expression in yeast. Ectopic expression in leaves of tobacco plants lead to an increase of C16 and C18 hydroxyacids and alpha,omega-diacids in the cell wall fraction, indicating a role in the biosynthesis of polyesters. Analysis of the genomic organization in Echium revealed the presence of EpGPAT2, a closely related gene which was found to be mostly expressed in developing leaves and flowers. The presence of a conserved HAD-like domain at the N-terminal moiety of GPATs from Echium, Arabidopsis and other plant species suggests a possible phosphohydrolase activity in addition to the reported acyltransferase activity. Evolutive implications of this finding are discussed.

DOI: 10.1007/s00425-010-1232-8