Vacuolar MATE/DTX protein-mediated cucurbitacin C transport is co-regulated with bitterness biosynthesis in cucumber.
Membrane-localized transporters constitute important components for specialized metabolism in plants. However, due to the vast array of specialized metabolites produced by plants, and the large families of transporter genes, knowledge about the intra- and intercellular transport of plant metabolites is still in its infancy. Cucurbitacins are bitter and defensive triterpenoids produced mainly in the cucurbits. Using a comparative genomics and multi-omics approach, a MATE gene (CsMATE1), physically clustered with cucurbitacin C (CuC) biosynthetic genes, was identified and functionally shown to sequester CuC in cucumber leaf mesophyll cells. Notably, the CuC transport process is strictly co-regulated with CuC biosynthesis. CsMATE1 clustering with bitterness biosynthesis genes may provide benefits and a basis for this feedback regulation on CuC sequestration and biosynthesis. Identification of transport systems for plant-specialized metabolites can accelerate the metabolic engineering of high-value-added compounds by simplifying their purification process.