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Keywords:

  • Catharanthus roseus;
  • heterologous expression;
  • methionine synthase;
  • methyl cycle;
  • vitamin B12

Methionine synthases catalyze the formation of methionine by the transfer of a methyl group from 5-methyltetrahydrofolate to homocysteine. This reaction is the last step in l-methionine biosynthesis, and it also serves to regenerate the methyl group of 5-adenosylmethionine, a cofactor required for biological methylation reactions. We describe the cloning, expression and characterization of a methionine synthase from the higher plant Catharanthus roseus. cDNAs were identified that encoded a protein of 85 kDa sharing 50 % identity with the cobalamin-independent methionine synthase from Escherichia coli (MetE) and 41 % identity with a partial sequence of a yeast homolog of MetE. The C. roseus protein was expressed at high levels in E. coli. The enzyme accepts the triglutamate form of methyltetrahydrofolate as a methyl donor but not the monoglutamate form, and it does not require 5-adenosylmethionine or cobalamin for activity. The properties indicate that the enzyme is a cobalamin-independent methionine synthase (EC 2.1.1.14). In contrast to the E. coli MetE, the plant protein does not require phosphate or magnesium ions for activity. Immunoblots of plant extracts showed that the protein was localized in the cytosol, and was present in a variety of plant species. A nutritional downshift of the C. roseus cell culture revealed a strong, transient transcriptional activation, but no significant increment in the total level of the protein. The availability of the protein and the cDNA now provide tools to investigate the complexities of methionine biosynthesis in plants.