Tocopherols are lipid-soluble compounds synthesized only by photosynthetic eukaryotes and oxygenic cyanobacteria. The pathway and enzymes for tocopherol synthesis are homologous in cyanobacteria and plants except for 2-methyl-6-phytyl-1,4-benzoquinone/2-methyl-6-solanyl-1,4-benzoquinone methyltransferase (MPBQ/MSBQ MT), which catalyzes a key methylation step in both tocopherol and plastoquinone (PQ) synthesis. Using a combined genomic, genetic, and biochemical approach, we isolated and characterized the VTE3 (vitamin E defective) locus, which encodes MPBQ/MSBQ MT in Arabidopsis. The phenotypes of vte3 mutants are consistent with the disruption of MPBQ/MSBQ MT activity to varying extents. The ethyl methanesulfonate-derived vte3-1 allele alters tocopherol composition but has little impact on PQ levels, whereas the null vte3-2 allele is deficient in PQ and α- and γ-tocopherols. In vitro enzyme assays confirmed that VTE3 is the plant functional equivalent of the previously characterized MPBQ/MSBQ MT (SII0418) from Synechocystis sp PCC6803, although the two proteins are highly divergent in primary sequence. SII0418 orthologs are present in all fully sequenced cyanobacterial genomes, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana but absent from vascular and nonvascular plant databases. VTE3 orthologs are present in all vascular and nonvascular plant databases and in C. reinhardtii but absent from cyanobacterial genomes. Intriguingly, the only prokaryotic genomes that contain VTE3-like sequences are those of two species of archea, suggesting that, in contrast to all other enzymes of the plant tocopherol pathway, the evolutionary origin of VTE3 may have been archeal rather than cyanobacterial. In vivo analyses of vte3 mutants and the corresponding homozygous Synechocystis sp PCC6803 sII0418::aphII mutant revealed important differences in enzyme redundancy, the regulation of tocopherol synthesis, and the integration of tocopherol and PQ biosynthesis in cyanobacteria and plants.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Cell Biology