Functional genomics of BAHD acyltransferases in different varieties of the wine grape, Vilis vinifera
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The characteristic "foxy" aroma of Vilis labrusca Concord grapes is due in large part to methyl anthranilate, a volatile ester formed by the enzyme anthraniloyl- CoA:methanol anthraniloyltransferase (VIAMAT) of the superfamily of BARD acyltransferases. The publication of the genome ofthe closely related wine grape Vilis vinifera, which does not accumulate methyl anthranilate, permitted the searching for any putative VlAU4T-like genes, with the result of 5 highly homologous candidates being found, with one candidate sharing 95% identity to VlAU4T. Probing the gene expression of 18 different cultivars of V. vinifora ripe berries by RT -PCR showed that many varieties do indeed express VlAU4T-like genes. Subsequent cloning of the full-length open reading frame of one of these genes from eDNA prepared from the cultivar Sauvignon Blanc permitted preliminary biochemical characterization of the enzyme after heterologous expression in E. coli. It was determined that this alcohol acyltransferase (named VvsbAATl) catalyzes the formation of cis-3-hexenyl acetate, a "green-leaf' volatile. Although the cloned gene from Sauvignon Blanc had 95% identity at the amino acid level to VIAMAT, it displayed an altered substrate specificity and expression pattern. These results highlight the difficulty in predicting substrate specificity and function of enzymes through the basis of sequence homology, which is a common finding in the study of BARD acyltransferases. Also, the determination of function of VvsbAATl and other BARD acyltransferases in V. vinifera could be used as a genetic marker for certain aroma characteristics in grape breeding programs.