How plants produce seed-protective neolignans

December 1, 2020

For development of novel medicinal ingredients

A joint research group including members from RIKEN CSRS, Kyoto University, and Suntory Global Innovation Center, identified an enzyme and a protein necessary for the biosynthesis of neolignans in Arabidopsis seeds. The study revealed that neolignans in seed coats suppress the permeability to foreign substances.

Neolignans are plant-derived compounds that have several health benefits, such as anti-tumor and anti-bacterial activity. However, the neolignan biosynthetic pathway and its physiological roles in plants remains unknown.

The research group determined the precise structure of neolignans in Arabidopsis seeds. Additionally, they identified genes for a dirigent protein and a laccase (an oxidative enzyme) involved in neolignan biosynthesis, and mapped out the neolignan biosynthetic pathway. The study showed that neolignans suppress seed-coat permeability, suggesting that they might contribute to chemical defenses against environmental stress, such as drought stress, oxidative stress, and stress caused by insects and pathogenic microorganisms.

These results will be useful for metabolic engineering of neolignans that could have novel medicinal properties.

Original article
The Plant Cell doi:10.1093/plcell/koaa014
K. Yonekura-Sakakibara, M. Yamamura, F. Matsuda, E. Ono, R. Nakabayashi, S. Sugawara, T. Mori, Y. Tobimatsu, T. Umezawa, K. Saito,
"Seed-coat protective neolignans are produced by the dirigent protein AtDP1 and the laccase AtLAC5 in Arabidopsis".
Keiko Sakakibara; Senior Scientist
Kazuki Saito; Group Director
Metabolomics Research Group