RNAi suppression of the morphine biosynthetic gene salAT and evidence of association of pathway enzymes

Katja Kempe, Yasuhiro Higashi, Susanne Frick, Khaled Sabarna, Toni M. Kutchan

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49 Scopus citations


Papaver somniferum L. was transformed with an RNAi construct designed to reduce transcript levels of the gene encoding the morphine biosynthetic enzyme, salutaridinol 7-O-acetyltransferase (SalAT). RNA interference of salAT led to accumulation of the intermediate compounds, salutaridine and salutaridinol, in a ratio ranging from 2:1 to 56:1. Along the morphine biosynthetic pathway, salutaridine is stereospecifically reduced by salutaridine reductase (SalR) to salutaridinol, which is subsequently acetylated by SalAT. SalAT transcript was shown by quantitative PCR to be diminished, while salR transcript levels remained unaffected. Yeast two-hybrid and co-immunoprecipitation analyses indicated an interaction between SalR and SalAT, which suggested the occurrence of an enzyme complex and provided an explanation for the unexpected accumulation of salutaridine. Decreased concentrations of thebaine and codeine in latex were also observed, while the morphine levels remained constant compared to concentrations found in untransformed control plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-589
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Co-immunoprecipitation
  • Morphine biosynthesis
  • Opium poppy
  • Papaver somniferum
  • Papaveraceae
  • RNAi
  • Salutaridine reductase
  • Salutaridinol 7-O-acetyltransferase
  • Yeast two-hybrid


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