Metabolic profiling of the methylerythritol phosphate pathway reveals the source of post-illumination isoprene burst from leaves



The methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway in plants produces the prenyl precursors for all plastidic isoprenoids, including carotenoids and quinones. The MEP pathway is also responsible for synthesis of approximately 600 Tg of isoprene per year, the largest non-methane hydrocarbon flux into the atmosphere. There have been few studies of the regulation of the MEP pathway in plants under physiological conditions. In this study, we combined gas exchange techniques and high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS-MS) and measured the profile of MEP pathway metabolites under different conditions. We report that in the MEP pathway, metabolites immediately preceding steps requiring reducing power were in high concentration. Inhibition of the MEP pathway by fosmidomycin caused deoxyxylulose phosphate accumulation in leaves as expected. Evidence is presented that accumulation of MEP pathway intermediates, primarily methylerythritol cyclodiphosphate, is responsible for the post-illumination isoprene burst phenomenon. Pools of intermediate metabolites stayed at approximately the same level 10 min after light was turned off, but declined eventually under prolonged darkness. In contrast, a strong inhibition of the second-to-last step of the MEP pathway caused suppression of isoprene emission in pure N2. Our study suggests that reducing equivalents may be a key regulator of the MEP pathway and therefore isoprene emission from leaves.