Lactucin Synthase Inactivation Boosts the Accumulation of Anti-inflammatory 8-Deoxylactucin and Its Derivatives in Chicory (Cichorium intybus L.)
Cankar, Katarina; Hakkert, Johanna Christina; Sevenier, Robert; Papastolopoulou, Christina; Schipper, Bert; Baixinho, João P.; Fernández, Naiara; Matos, Melanie S.; Serra, Ana Teresa; Santos, Claudia Nunes; Vahabi, Khabat; Tissier, Alain; Bundock, Paul; Bosch, Dirk
For several sesquiterpene lactones (STLs) found in Asteraceae plants, very interesting biomedical activities have been demonstrated. Chicory roots accumulate the guaianolide STLs 8-deoxylactucin, lactucin, and lactucopicrin predominantly in oxalated forms in the latex. In this work, a supercritical fluid extract fraction of chicory STLs containing 8-deoxylactucin and 11β,13-dihydro-8-deoxylactucin was shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in an inflamed intestinal mucosa model. To increase the accumulation of these two compounds in chicory taproots, the lactucin synthase that takes 8-deoxylactucin as the substrate for the regiospecific hydroxylation to generate lactucin needs to be inactivated. Three candidate cytochrome P450 enzymes of the CYP71 clan were identified in chicory. Their targeted inactivation using the CRISPR/Cas9 approach identified CYP71DD33 to have lactucin synthase activity. The analysis of the terpene profile of the taproots of plants with edits in CYP71DD33 revealed a nearly complete elimination of the endogenous chicory STLs lactucin and lactucopicrin and their corresponding oxalates. Indeed, in the same lines, the interruption of biosynthesis resulted in a strong increase of 8-deoxylactucin and its derivatives. The enzyme activity of CYP71DD33 to convert 8-deoxylactucin to lactucin was additionally demonstrated in vitro using yeast microsome assays. The identified chicory lactucin synthase gene is predominantly expressed in the chicory latex, indicating that the late steps in the STL biosynthesis take place in the latex. This study contributes to further elucidation of the STL pathway in chicory and shows that root chicory can be positioned as a crop from which different health products can be extracted.