Genome-wide identification of phenolic acid biosynthetic genes in Salvia miltiorrhiza

Bo Wang, Wei Sun, Qiushi Li, Ying Li, Hongmei Luo, Jingyuan Song, Chao Sun, Jun Qian, Yingjie Zhu, Alice Hayward, Haibin Xu, Shilin Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Main conclusion: Twenty-nine genes related to phenolic acid biosynthesis were identified in theSalvia miltiorrhizagenome. Nineteen of these are described for the first time, with ten genes experimentally correlating to phenolic acid biosynthesis. Vast stores of secondary metabolites exist in plants, many of which possess biological activities related to human health. Phenolic acid derivatives are a class of valuable bioactive pharmaceuticals abundant in the widely used Chinese medicinal herb, Salvia miltiorrhiza. The biosynthetic pathway for phenolic acids differs in this species from that of other investigated plants. However, the molecular basis for this is unknown, with systematic analysis of the genes involved not yet performed. As the first step towards unraveling this complex biosynthetic pathway in S. miltiorrhiza, the current genome assembly was searched for putatively involved genes. Twenty-nine genes were revealed, 19 of which are described here for the first time. These include 15 genes predicted in the phenylpropanoid pathway; seven genes in the tyrosine-derived pathway; six genes encoding putative hydroxycinnamoyltransferases, and one CYP98A, namely CYP98A78. The promoter regions, gene structures and expression patterns of these genes were examined. Furthermore, conserved domains and phylogenetic relationships with homologous proteins in other species were revealed. Most of the key enzymes, including 4-coumarate: CoA ligase, 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate reductase and hydroxycinnamoyltransferase, were found in multiple copies, each exhibiting different characteristics. Ten genes putatively involved in rosmarinic acid biosynthesis are also described. These findings provide a foundation for further analysis of this complex and diverse pathway, with potential to enhance the synthesis of water-soluble medicinal compounds in S. miltiorrhiza.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-725
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Medicinal compounds
  • Phenolic acid biosynthesis
  • Phenolic acids
  • Rosmarinic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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