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A. Jozwiak - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel 
P. Sonawane - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
S. Panda - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
C. Garagounis - 
University of Thessaly, Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Larissa, Greece
H. Massalha -
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel 
E. Almekias-Siegl - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
T. Scherf - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
A. Aharoni - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel

Triterpenoid saponins are one of the most diverse class of specialized metabolites found in wide spectrum of plant families. Due to their unique physicochemical properties, triterpenoid saponins play an important role in traditional medicine, food and pharma industries as well as in plant defense against pathogens, pests and herbivores. Although, importance of triterpenoid saponins is well recognized by scientific community and knowledge on their biosynthesis is advancing, complete biosynthetic pathways remain elusive. Especially, little is known about glycosyltransferases decorating aglycones with non-standard sugars (xylose, rhamnose, fucose) and acyltransferases attaching acyl chains. Here, we present discovery and characterization of ten genes that complete biosynthetic pathway of complex triterpenoid saponins from precursor 2,3-oxidosqualene in spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Moreover, we uncover an elusive enzymatic steps performed by new glycosyltransferases and an acyltransferase that provide new insights into triterpenoids diversity. The discovery of triterpenoid saponin biosynthetic enzymes sets the stage for elucidating the saponin pathway, yet undisclosed in hundreds of plant species. Our study provides a valuable strategy for engineering new varieties with improved traits.

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Elucidation of the Triterpenoid Saponin Biosynthetic Pathway in Spinach Provides Novel Insights to Glycosylation and Acylation Reactions

A. Jozwiak - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel 
P. Sonawane - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
S. Panda - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
C. Garagounis - 
University of Thessaly, Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Larissa, Greece
H. Massalha -
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel 
E. Almekias-Siegl - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
T. Scherf - Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel
A. Aharoni - 
Weizmann Institute of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rehovot, Israel

Triterpenoid saponins are one of the most diverse class of specialized metabolites found in wide spectrum of plant families. Due to their unique physicochemical properties, triterpenoid saponins play an important role in traditional medicine, food and pharma industries as well as in plant defense against pathogens, pests and herbivores. Although, importance of triterpenoid saponins is well recognized by scientific community and knowledge on their biosynthesis is advancing, complete biosynthetic pathways remain elusive. Especially, little is known about glycosyltransferases decorating aglycones with non-standard sugars (xylose, rhamnose, fucose) and acyltransferases attaching acyl chains. Here, we present discovery and characterization of ten genes that complete biosynthetic pathway of complex triterpenoid saponins from precursor 2,3-oxidosqualene in spinach (Spinacia oleracea). Moreover, we uncover an elusive enzymatic steps performed by new glycosyltransferases and an acyltransferase that provide new insights into triterpenoids diversity. The discovery of triterpenoid saponin biosynthetic enzymes sets the stage for elucidating the saponin pathway, yet undisclosed in hundreds of plant species. Our study provides a valuable strategy for engineering new varieties with improved traits.

Scientific Publication
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