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Biosynthesis and antifungal activity of fungus-induced O-methylated flavonoids in maize.


Fungal infection of grasses, including rice (Oryza sativa), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), and barley (Hordeum vulgare), induces the formation and accumulation of flavonoid phytoalexins. In maize (Zea mays), however, investigators have emphasized benzoxazinoid and terpenoid phytoalexins, and comparatively little is known about flavonoid induction in response to pathogens. Here, we examined fungus-elicited flavonoid metabolism in maize and identified key biosynthetic enzymes involved in the formation of O-methylflavonoids. The predominant end products were identified as two tautomers of a 2-hydroxynaringenin-derived compound termed xilonenin, which significantly inhibited the growth of two maize pathogens, Fusarium graminearum and Fusarium verticillioides. Among the biosynthetic enzymes identified were two O-methyltransferases (OMTs), flavonoid OMT 2 (FOMT2), and FOMT4, which demonstrated distinct regiospecificity on a broad spectrum of flavonoid classes. In addition, a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (CYP) in the CYP93G subfamily was found to serve as a flavanone 2-hydroxylase providing the substrate for FOMT2-catalyzed formation of xilonenin. In summary, maize produces a diverse blend of O-methylflavonoids with antifungal activity upon attack by a broad range of fungi.

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