Understanding the possible influence of Pumilio RNA binding proteins on terpenoid indole alkaloid biosynthesis in Catharanthus roseus

M. J. Nishanth, SASTRA Deemed University
Bindu Simon, Kennesaw State University


Catharanthus roseus is a clinically significant medicinal plant; the sole source of chemotherapy agents, vincristine and vinblastine (specialized metabolites, terpenoid indole alkaloids/TIAs). Owing to large clinical demand and low bioavailability, several studies have focused on biosynthesis and regulation of TIA biosynthesis in C. roseus. However, transcription factor mediated regulation has been a major research focus, and the impact of post-transcriptional regulation remains under-explored. RNA binding proteins (RBPs) are an emerging class of post-transcriptional regulators having a profound influence on transcript stability. Pumilio (Pum) RBPs are evolutionarily conserved post-transcriptional regulators, involved in RNA degradation across eukaryotes. However, their potential influence on TIA biosynthesis has not been studied till date in any medicinal plants including C. roseus. Thus, the present study aimed at identification and computational characterization of Pum in C. roseus, followed by expression and functional analyses. The genome-wide identification and characterization revealed twelve CrPum isoforms. The effect of CrPum2, 3, and 5 knockdown on TIA biosynthesis (specifically vindoline and catharanthine) was analyzed via high performance liquid chromatography. CrPum5 knockdown was associated with increased TIA levels and upregulation of key TIA pathway genes. Thus, the present study is the first to report the potential influence of Pum on TIA biosynthesis in C. roseus. Further studies to elucidate the mechanism of Pum activity could provide new insights into the molecular regulation of TIA biosynthesis. A holistic understanding of regulatory mechanisms could benefit the metabolic engineering programs aimed at higher productivity of plant specialized metabolites.