Engineering of cysteine and methionine biosynthesis in potato
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Methionine and cysteine, two amino acids containing reduced sulfur, are not only an important substrate of protein biosynthesis but are also precursors of various other metabolites such as glutathione, phytochelatines, S-adenosylmethionine, ethylene, polyamines, biotin, and are involved as methyl group donor in numerous cellular processes. While methionine is an essential amino acid due to an inability of monogastric animals and human beings to synthesise this metabolite, animals are still able to convert methionine consumed with their diet into cysteine. Thus, a balanced diet containing both amino acids is necessary to provide a nutritionally favourable food or feed source. Because the concentrations of methionine and cysteine are often low in edible plant sources, e.g. potato, considerable efforts in plant breeding and research have been and are still performed to understand the physiological, biochemical, and molecular mechanisms that contribute to their synthesis, transport, and accumulation in plants. During the last decade molecular tools have enabled the isolation of most of the genes involved in cysteine and methionine biosynthesis, and the efficient plant transformation technology has allowed the creation of transgenic plants that are altered in the activity of individual genes. The physiological analysis of these transgenic plants has contributed considerably to our current understanding of how amino acids are synthesised. We focused our analysis on potato (Solanum tuberosum cv. Désirée) as this plant provides a clear separation of source and sink tissues and, for applied purposes, already constitutes a crop plant. From the data presented here and in previous work we conclude that threonine synthase and not cystathionine gamma-synthase as expected from studies of Arabidopsis constitutes the main regulatory control point of methionine synthesis in potato. This article aims to cover the current knowledge in the area of molecular genetics of sulfur-containing amino acid biosynthesis and will provide new data for methionine biosynthesis in solanaceous plants such as potato.
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