Vitamin e biosynthesis: Functional characterization of the monocot homogentisate geranylgeranyl transferase

Wenyu Yang, Rebecca E. Cahoon, Sarah C. Hunter, Chunyu Zhang, Jixiang Han, Trissa Borgschulte, Edgar B. Cahoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Summary The biosynthesis of the tocotrienol and tocopherol forms of vitamin E is initiated by prenylation of homogentisate. Geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGDP) is the prenyl donor for tocotrienol synthesis, whereas phytyl diphosphate (PDP) is the prenyl donor for tocopherol synthesis. We have previously shown that tocotrienol synthesis is initiated in monocot seeds by homogentisate geranylgeranyl transferase (HGGT). This enzyme is related to homogentisate phytyltransferase (HPT), which catalyzes the prenylation step in tocopherol synthesis. Here we show that monocot HGGT is localized in the plastid and expressed primarily in seed endosperm. Despite the close structural relationship of monocot HGGT and HPT, these enzymes were found to have distinct substrate specificities. Barley (Hordeum vulgare cv. Morex) HGGT expressed in insect cells was six times more active with GGDP than with PDP, whereas the Arabidopsis HPT was nine times more active with PDP than with GGDP. However, only small differences were detected in the apparent K m values of barley HGGT for GGDP and PDP. Consistent with its in vitro substrate properties, barley HGGT generated a mixture of tocotrienols and tocopherols when expressed in the vitamin E-null vte2-1 mutant lacking a functional HPT. Relative levels of tocotrienols and tocopherols produced in vte2-1 differed between organs and growth stages, reflective of the composition of plastidic pools of GGDP and PDP. In addition, HGGT was able to functionally substitute for HPT to rescue vte2-1-associated phenotypes, including reduced seed viability and increased fatty acid oxidation of seed lipids. Overall, we show that monocot HGGT is biochemically distinct from HPT, but can replace HPT in important vitamin E-related physiological processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • antioxidant
  • homogentisate geranylgeranyl transferase
  • prenyltransferase
  • tocopherol
  • tocotrienol
  • vitamin E

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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