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Isoprene synthesis in plants: lessons from a transgenic tobacco model

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date06/2011
JournalPlant, Cell and Environment
Number of pages11
Original languageEnglish


Isoprene is a highly reactive gas, and is emitted in such large quantities from the biosphere that it substantially affects the oxidizing potential of the atmosphere. Relatively little is known about the control of isoprene emission at the molecular level. Using transgenic tobacco lines harbouring a poplar isoprene synthase gene, we examined control of isoprene emission. Isoprene synthase required chloroplastic localization for catalytic activity, and isoprene was produced via the methyl erythritol (MEP) pathway from recently assimilated carbon. Emission patterns in transgenic tobacco plants were remarkably similar to naturally emitting plants under a wide variety of conditions. Emissions correlated with photosynthetic rates in developing and mature leaves, and with the amount of isoprene synthase protein in mature leaves. Isoprene synthase protein levels did not change under short-term increase in heat/light, despite an increase in emissions under these conditions. A robust circadian pattern could be observed in emissions from long-day plants. The data support the idea that substrate supply and changes in enzyme kinetics (rather than changes in isoprene synthase levels or post-translational regulation of activity) are the primary controls on isoprene emission in mature transgenic tobacco leaves.