Chemical, biochemical, and molecular characterization of a low vindoline Catharanthus roseus mutant.
The Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) is the sole source of the anticancer drug vinblastine, which is formed via the coupling of monoterpenoid indole alkaloids (MIAs) catharanthine and vindoline. A mutant line of C. roseus (M2-1865) with an altered MIA profile was identified in a screen of 4000 M2 lines generated by ethylmethanesulfonate (EMS) chemical mutagenesis. While this line did not accumulate vinblastine due to reduced levels of vindoline within the leaves, significant levels of 2,3-epoxide derivatives of tabersonine accumulated on the leaf surface. Detailed nucleotide, amino acid, and enzyme activity analyses of tabersonine 3-reductase in the M2-1865 line showed that a single amino acid substitution (H189Y) diminished the biochemical activity of T3R by 95%. Genetic crosses showed the phenotype to be recessive, exhibiting standard Mendelian single-gene inheritance. The usefulness of EMS mutagenesis in elucidating MIA biosynthesis is highlighted by the results of this study.