Multi-level engineering facilitates the production of phenylpropanoid compounds in tomato.
Phenylpropanoids comprise an important class of plant secondary metabolites. A number of transcription factors have been used to upregulate-specific branches of phenylpropanoid metabolism, but by far the most effective has been the fruit-specific expression of AtMYB12 in tomato, which resulted in as much as 10% of fruit dry weight accumulating as flavonols and hydroxycinnamates. We show that AtMYB12 not only increases the demand of flavonoid biosynthesis but also increases the supply of carbon from primary metabolism, energy and reducing power, which may fuel the shikimate and phenylalanine biosynthetic pathways to supply more aromatic amino acids for secondary metabolism. AtMYB12 directly binds promoters of genes encoding enzymes of primary metabolism. The enhanced supply of precursors, energy and reducing power achieved by AtMYB12 expression can be harnessed to engineer high levels of novel phenylpropanoids in tomato fruit, offering an effective production system for bioactives and other high value ingredients.