Molecular and biochemical characteristics of a gene encoding an alcohol acyl-transferase involved in the generation of aroma volatile esters during melon ripening


  • Enzyme: alcohol acyl-transferase (EC

    Note: the accession numbers of the proteins referred to in this manuscript are: CM-AAT1, CAA94432 and CM-AAT2, AF468022.

J.-C. PECH, UMR990 INP/ENSAT-INRA, Avenue. de l'Agrobiopole, BP 107, F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France. Fax: + 33 5 62 19 35 73, Tel.: + 33 5 62 19 35 64, E-mail:


Two genes (CM-AAT1 and CM-AAT2) with strong sequence homology (87% identity at the protein level) putatively involved in the formation of aroma volatile esters have been isolated from Charentais melon fruit. They belong to a large and highly divergent family of multifunctional plant acyl-transferases and show at most 21% identity to the only other fruit acyl-transferase characterized so far in strawberry. RT-PCR studies indicated that both genes were specifically expressed in fruit at increasing rates in the early and mid phases of ripening. Expression was severely reduced in ethylene-suppressed antisense ACC oxidase (AS) fruit and in wild-type (WT) fruit treated with the ethylene antagonist 1-MCP. Cloning of the two genes in yeast revealed that the CM-AAT1 protein exhibited alcohol acyl-transferase activity while no such activity could be detected for CM-AAT2 despite the strong homology between the two sequences. CM-AAT1 was capable of producing esters from a wide range of combinations of alcohols and acyl-CoAs. The higher the carbon chain of aliphatic alcohols, the higher the activity. Branched alcohols were esterified at differential rates depending on the position of the methyl group and the nature of the acyl donor. Phenyl and benzoyl alcohols were also good substrates, but activity varied with the position and size of the aromatic residue. The cis/trans configuration influenced activity either positively (2-hexenol) or negatively (3-hexenol). Because ripening melons evolve the whole range of esters generated by the recombinant CM-AAT1 protein, we conclude that CM-AAT1 plays a major role in aroma volatiles formation in the melon.