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Keywords:

  • spike lavender;
  • HMGR1S;
  • metabolic engineering;
  • monoterpenes;
  • sesquiterpenes;
  • sterols

Summary

Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) essential oil is widely used in the perfume, cosmetic, flavouring and pharmaceutical industries. Thus, modifications of yield and composition of this essential oil by genetic engineering should have important scientific and commercial applications. We generated transgenic spike lavender plants expressing the Arabidopsis thaliana HMG1 cDNA, encoding the catalytic domain of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase (HMGR1S), a key enzyme of the mevalonic acid (MVA) pathway. Transgenic T0 plants accumulated significantly more essential oil constituents as compared to controls (up to 2.1- and 1.8-fold in leaves and flowers, respectively). Enhanced expression of HMGR1S also increased the amount of the end-product sterols, β-sitosterol and stigmasterol (average differences of 1.8- and 1.9-fold, respectively), but did not affect the accumulation of carotenoids or chlorophylls. We also analysed T1 plants derived from self-pollinated seeds of T0 lines that flowered after growing for 2 years in the greenhouse. The increased levels of essential oil and sterols observed in the transgenic T0 plants were maintained in the progeny that inherited the HMG1 transgene. Our results demonstrate that genetic manipulation of the MVA pathway increases essential oil yield in spike lavender, suggesting a contribution for this cytosolic pathway to monoterpene and sesquiterpene biosynthesis in leaves and flowers of the species.