Enhanced triterpene saponin biosynthesis and root nodulation in transgenic barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.) expressing a novel beta-amyrin synthase (AsOXA1) gene

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Triterpene saponins are a group of bioactive compounds abundant in the genus Medicago, and have been studied extensively for their biological and pharmacological properties. In this article, we evaluated the effects of the ectopic expression of AsOXA1 cDNA from Aster sedifolius on the production of triterpene saponins in barrel medic (Medicago truncatula Gaertn.). AsOXA1 cDNA encodes beta-amyrin synthase, a key enzyme involved in triterpene saponin biosynthesis. One of the four transgenic lines expressing AsOXA1 accumulated significantly larger amounts of some triterpenic compounds in leaf and root than did control plants. In particular, the leaf exhibited significantly higher levels of bayogenin, medicagenic acid and zanhic acid. The amounts of medicagenic acid and zanhic acid, which represent the core of the M. truncatula leaf saponins, were 1.7 and 2.1 times higher, respectively, than the amounts extracted from the control line. In root, the production of bayogenin, hederagenin, soyasapogenol E and 2 beta-hydroxyoleanolic acid was increased significantly. The increase in the total amounts of triterpenic compounds observed in the leaves of transgenic lines correlated with the AsOXA1 expression level. Interestingly, the plants expressing AsOXA1 showed, under different growth conditions, improved nodulation when compared with the control line. Nodulation enhancement was also accompanied by a significant change in the soyasapogenol B content. Our results indicate that the ectopic expression of AsOXA1 in barrel medic leads to a greater accumulation of triterpene saponins and enhanced root nodulation.
Original languageUnknown
Pages (from-to)172-182
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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