Coniferyl aldehyde 5-hydroxylation and methylation direct syringyl lignin biosynthesis in angiosperms

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A central question in lignin biosynthesis is how guaiacyl intermediates are hydroxylated and methylated to the syringyl monolignol in angiosperms. To address this question, we cloned cDNAs encoding a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (LsM88) and a caffeate O-methyltransferase (COMT) from sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) xylem. Mass spectrometry-based functional analysis of LsM88 in yeast identified it as coniferyl aldehyde 5-hydroxylase (CAld5H). COMT expressed in Escherichia coli methylated 5-hydroxyconiferyl aldehyde to sinapyl aldehyde. Together, CAld5H and COMT converted coniferyl aldehyde to sinapyl aldehyde, suggesting a CAld5H/COMT-mediated pathway from guaiacyl to syringyl monolignol biosynthesis via coniferyl aldehyde that contrasts with the generally accepted route to sinapate via ferulate. Although the CAld5H/COMT enzyme system can mediate the biosynthesis of syringyl monolignol intermediates through either route, k(cat)/K(m) of CAld5H for coniferyl aldehyde was ≃140 times greater than that for ferulate. More significantly, when coniferyl aldehyde and ferulate were present together, coniferyl aldehyde was a noncompetitive inhibitor (K(i) = 0.59 μM) of ferulate 5- hydroxylation, thereby eliminating the entire reaction sequence from ferulate to sinapate. In contrast, ferulate had no effect on coniferyl aldehyde 5- hydroxylation. 5-Hydroxylation also could not be detected for fernloyl-CoA or coniferyl alcohol. Therefore, in the presence of coniferyl aldehyde, ferulate 5-hydroxylation does not occur, and the syringyl monolignol can be synthesized only from coniferyl aldehyde. Endogenous coniferyl, 5- hydroxyconiferyl, and sinapyl aldehydes were detected, consistent with in vivo operation of the CAld5H/COMT pathway from coniferyl to sinapyl aldehydes via 5-hydroxyconiferyl aldehyde for syringyl monolignol biosynthesis.

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America