Citrus fruit flavor and aroma biosynthesis: isolation, functional characterization, and developmental regulation of Cstps1, a key gene in the production of the sesquiterpene aroma compound valencene


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Authors that contributed equally to this work.


Citrus fruits possess unique aromas rarely found in other fruit species. While fruit flavor is composed of complex combinations of soluble and volatile compounds, several low-abundance sesquiterpenes, such as valencene, nootkatone, alpha-sinensal, and beta-sinensal, stand out in citrus as important flavor and aroma compounds. The profile of terpenoid volatiles in various citrus species and their importance as aroma compounds have been studied in detail, but much is still lacking in our understanding of the physiological, biochemical, and genetic regulation of their production. Here, we report on the isolation, functional expression, and developmental regulation of Cstps1, a sesquiterpene synthase-encoding gene, involved in citrus aroma formation. The recombinant enzyme encoded by Cstps1 was shown to convert farnesyl diphosphate to a single sesquiterpene product identified as valencene by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). Phylogenetic analysis of plant terpene synthase genes localized Cstps1 to the group of angiosperm sesquiterpene synthases. Within this group, Cstps1 belongs to a subgroup of citrus sesquiterpene synthases. Cstps1 was found to be developmentally regulated: transcript was found to accumulate only towards fruit maturation, corresponding well with the timing of valencene accumulation in fruit. Although citrus fruits are non-climacteric, valencene accumulation and Cstps1 expression were found to be responsive to ethylene, providing further evidence for the role of ethylene in the final stages of citrus fruit ripening. Isolation of the gene encoding valencene synthase provides a tool for an in-depth study of the regulation of aroma compound biosynthesis in citrus and for metabolic engineering for fruit flavor characteristics.