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Vanillin biosynthetic pathways in plants


Main conclusion

The present review compiles the up-to-date knowledge on vanillin biosynthesis in plant systems to focus principally on the enzymatic reactions of in planta vanillin biosynthetic pathway and to find out its impact and prospect in future research in this field.

Vanillin, a very popular flavouring compound, is widely used throughout the world. The principal natural resource of vanillin is the cured vanilla pods. Due to the high demand of vanillin as a flavouring agent, it is necessary to explore its biosynthetic enzymes and genes, so that improvement in its commercial production can be achieved through metabolic engineering. In spite of significant advancement in elucidating vanillin biosynthetic pathway in the last two decades, no conclusive demonstration had been reported yet for plant system. Several biosynthetic enzymes have been worked upon but divergences in published reports, particularly in characterizing the crucial biochemical steps of vanillin biosynthesis, such as side-chain shortening, methylation, and glucoside formation and have created a space for discussion. Recently, published reviews on vanillin biosynthesis have focused mainly on the biotechnological approaches and bioconversion in microbial systems. This review, however, aims to compile in brief the overall vanillin biosynthetic route and present a comparative as well as comprehensive description of enzymes involved in the pathway in Vanilla planifolia and other plants. Special emphasis has been given on the key enzymatic biochemical reactions that have been investigated extensively. Finally, the present standpoint and future prospects have been highlighted.

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Hydroxybenzaldehyde synthase


4-Hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA hydratase/lyase


Caffeic acid O-methyltransferase


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The author acknowledges the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur for permitting to access the digital library and for providing ‘Institutional Assistantship’ during preparing the manuscript. Author also acknowledges Ms. Shruti Mishra, M.Sc. for helping in linguistic editing of the article.

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Correspondence to Anish Kundu.

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Kundu, A. Vanillin biosynthetic pathways in plants. Planta 245, 1069–1078 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-017-2684-x

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  • Vanillin
  • Side-chain shortening reaction
  • Vanillin synthase
  • Methyltransferase