Transient expression and purification of β-caryophyllene synthase in Nicotiana benthamiana to produce β-caryophyllene in vitro
PeerJ -- PeerJ
DOI 10.7717/peerj.8904
  1. Artemisia annua
  2. Sesquiterpene synthase
  3. AaCPS1
  4. Phylogenetics
  5. Terpenoids
  6. Nicotiana benthamiana
  7. Transient expression
  8. β-caryophyllene synthase

The sesquiterpene β-caryophyllene is an ubiquitous component in many plants that has commercially been used as an aroma in cosmetics and perfumes. Recent studies have shown its potential use as a therapeutic agent and biofuel. Currently, β-caryophyllene is isolated from large amounts of plant material. Molecular farming based on the Nicotiana benthamiana transient expression system may be used for a more sustainable production of β-caryophyllene. In this study, a full-length cDNA of a new duplicated β-caryophyllene synthase from Artemisia annua (AaCPS1) was isolated and functionally characterized. In order to produce β-caryophyllene in vitro, the AaCPS1 was cloned into a plant viral-based vector pEAQ-HT. Subsequently, the plasmid was transferred into the Agrobacterium and agroinfiltrated into N. benthamiana leaves. The AaCPS1 expression was analyzed by quantitative PCR at different time points after agroinfiltration. The highest level of transcripts was observed at 9 days post infiltration (dpi). The AaCPS1 protein was extracted from the leaves at 9 dpi and purified by cobalt–nitrilotriacetate (Co-NTA) affinity chromatography using histidine tag with a yield of 89 mg kg−1 fresh weight of leaves. The protein expression of AaCPS1 was also confirmed by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and western blot analyses. AaCPS1 protein uses farnesyl diphosphate (FPP) as a substrate to produce β-caryophyllene. Product identification and determination of the activity of purified AaCPS1 were done by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS). GC–MS results revealed that the AaCPS1 produced maximum 26.5 ± 1 mg of β-caryophyllene per kilogram fresh weight of leaves after assaying with FPP for 6 h. Using AaCPS1 as a proof of concept, we demonstrate that N. benthamiana can be considered as an expression system for production of plant proteins that catalyze the formation of valuable chemicals for industrial applications.