Unlocking the diversity of alkaloids in Catharanthus roseus: nuclear localization suggests metabolic channeling in secondary metabolism.

gold Gold open access

The extraordinary chemical diversity of the plant-derived monoterpene indole alkaloids, which include vinblastine, quinine, and strychnine, originates from a single biosynthetic intermediate, strictosidine aglycone. Here we report for the first time the cloning of a biosynthetic gene and characterization of the corresponding enzyme that acts at this crucial branchpoint. This enzyme, an alcohol dehydrogenase homolog, converts strictosidine aglycone to the heteroyohimbine-type alkaloid tetrahydroalstonine. We also demonstrate how this enzyme, which uses a highly reactive substrate, may interact with the upstream enzyme of the pathway.