Picking sides: distinct roles for CYP76M6 and CYP76M8 in rice oryzalexin biosynthesis
Natural products biosynthesis often requires the action of multiple cytochromes P450 (CYPs), whose ability to introduce oxygen, increasing solubility, is critical for imparting biological activity. In previous investigations of rice diterpenoid biosynthesis, we have characterized CYPs that catalyze alternative hydroxylation of ent-sandaracopimaradiene, the precursor to the rice oryzalexin antibiotic phytoalexins. In particular, CYP76M5, -6 and -8 were all shown to carry out C7β-hydroxylation, while CYP701A8 catalyzes C3α-hydroxylation, with oxy groups found at both positions in oryzalexins A–D, suggesting that these may act consecutively in oryzalexin biosynthesis. Here we report that, although CYP701A8 only poorly reacts with 7β-hydroxy-entsandaracopimaradiene, CYP76M6 and -8 readily react with 3α-hydroxy-entsandaracopimaradiene. Notably, their activity yields distinct products, resulting from hydroxylation at C9β by CYP76M6 or C7β by CYP76M8, on different sides of the core tricyclic ring structure. Thus, CYP76M6 and -8 have distinct, non-redundant roles in orzyalexin biosynthesis. Moreover, the resulting 3α,7β- and 3α,9β- diols correspond to oryzalexins D and E, respectively. Accordingly, our results complete the functional identification of the biosynthetic pathway underlying the production of these bioactive phytoalexins. In addition, the altered regiochemistry catalyzed by CYP76M6 following C3α-hydroxylation has some implications for its active site configuration, offering further molecular insight.