Loss of ferulate 5-hydroxylase leads to Mediator-dependent inhibition of soluble phenylpropanoid biosynthesis in Arabidopsis

Release Date: 
Thursday, October 8, 2015

Abstract: Phenylpropanoids are phenylalanine-derived specialized metabolites and include important structural components of plant cell walls such as lignin and hydroxycinnamic acids (HCAs), as well as ultraviolet and visible light-absorbing pigments, such as hydroxycinnamate esters (HCEs) and anthocyanins. Previous work has revealed a remarkable degree of plasticity in HCE biosynthesis, such that most Arabidopsis mutants with blockages in the pathway simply redirect carbon flux to atypical HCEs. In contrast, the ferulic acid hydroxylase 1 (fah1) mutant accumulates greatly reduced levels of HCEs, suggesting that phenylpropanoid biosynthesis may be repressed in response to loss of ferulate 5-hydroxylase (F5H) activity. Here we show that in fah1 mutant plants, the activity of HCE biosynthetic enzymes is not limiting for HCE accumulation, nor is phenylpropanoid flux diverted to the synthesis of cell wall components or flavonol glycosides. We further show that anthocyanin accumulation is also repressed in fah1 mutants, and that this repression is specific to tissues in which F5H is normally expressed. Finally, we show that repression of both HCE and anthocyanin biosynthesis in fah1 mutants is dependent on the MED5a/5b subunits of the transcriptional co-regulatory complex Mediator, which are similarly required for the repression of lignin biosynthesis and stunted growth of the phenylpropanoid pathway mutant reduced epidermal fluorescence 8 (ref8). Taken together, these observations show that the synthesis of HCEs and anthocyanins is actively repressed in a Mediator-dependent manner in Arabidopsis fah1 mutants, and support an emerging model in which MED5a/5b act as central players in the homeostatic repression of phenylpropanoid metabolism.

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