Oats produce a group of secondary metabolites termed avenanthramides (avn). These compounds are biosynthesized through the action of the enzyme hydroxycinnamoyl CoA: hydroxyanthranilate N-hydroxycinnamoyl transferase (HHT) which catalyzes the condensation of one of several cinnamate CoA thioesters with the amine functionality of anthranilic acid, 4-hydroxy- or 5-hydroxy- anthranilic acid. In oat leaf tissue the biosynthesis of avenanthramides appears to result from elicitation by fungal infection. Here we demonstrate the biosynthesis of several avenanthramides in suspension cultures of oat apical meristem callus tissue. This phenomenon appears as a generalized pathogen response, evidenced by the production of PR-1 mRNA, in response to elicitation with chitin (poly-N-acetyl glucosamine). The suspension cultures also produce relatively large quantities of avnA and G in response to chitin elicitation. Under certain culture conditions avnB and C are also produced as well as three additional metabolites tentatively identified as avnH, O and R. These findings portend the utility of oat suspension culture as a tool for more detailed investigation of the mechanisms triggering their biosynthesis as well as the factors dictating the particular types of avenanthramides biosynthesized. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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