• secondary metabolism;
  • biochemistry;
  • protein structure;
  • plant volatile;
  • scent


Many plants synthesize the volatile phenylpropene compounds eugenol and isoeugenol to serve in defense against herbivores and pathogens and to attract pollinators. Clarkia breweri flowers emit a mixture of eugenol and isoeugenol, while Petunia hybrida flowers emit mostly isoeugenol with small amounts of eugenol. We recently reported the identification of a petunia enzyme, isoeugenol synthase 1 (PhIGS1) that catalyzes the formation of isoeugenol, and an Ocimum basilicum (basil) enzyme, eugenol synthase 1 (ObEGS1), that produces eugenol. ObEGS1 and PhIGS1 both utilize coniferyl acetate, are 52% sequence identical, and belong to a family of NADPH-dependent reductases involved in secondary metabolism. Here we show that C. breweri flowers have two closely related proteins (96% identity), CbIGS1 and CbEGS1, that are similar to ObEGS1 (58% and 59% identity, respectively) and catalyze the formation of isoeugenol and eugenol, respectively. In vitro mutagenesis experiments demonstrate that substitution of only a single residue can substantially affect the product specificity of these enzymes. A third C. breweri enzyme identified, CbEGS2, also catalyzes the formation of eugenol from coniferyl acetate and is only 46% identical to CbIGS1 and CbEGS1 but more similar (>70%) to other types of reductases. We also found that petunia flowers contain an enzyme, PhEGS1, that is highly similar to CbEGS2 (82% identity) and that converts coniferyl acetate to eugenol. Our results indicate that plant enzymes with EGS and IGS activities have arisen multiple times and in different protein lineages.