Erythrina velutina Willd. alkaloids: Piecing biosynthesis together from transcriptome analysis and metabolite profiling of seeds and leaves
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Introduction: Natural products of pharmaceutical interest often do not reach the drug market due to the associated low yields and difficult extraction. Knowledge of biosynthetic pathways is a key element in the development of biotechnological strategies for plant specialized metabolite production. The scarce studies regarding non-model plants impair advances in this field. Erythrina spp. are mainly used as central nervous system depressants in folk medicine and are important sources of bioactive tetracyclic benzylisoquinoline alkaloids, which can act on several pathology-related biological targets. Objective: Herein the purpose is to employ combined transcriptome and metabolome analyses (seeds and leaves) of a non-model medicinal Fabaceae species grown in its unique arid natural habitat. The study tries to propose a putative biosynthetic pathway for the bioactive alkaloids by using an omic integrated approach. Methods: The Next Generation Sequencing-based transcriptome (de novo RNA sequencing) was carried out in a Illumina NextSeq 500 platform. Regarding the targeted metabolite profiling, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and the High-Performance Liquid Chromatography coupled to a micrOTOF-QII, High Resolution Mass Spectrometer, were used. Results: This detailed macro and micromolecular approach applied to seeds and leaves of E. velutina revealed 42 alkaloids by metabolome tools. Based on the combined evidence, 24 gene candidates were put together in a putative pathway leading to the singular alkaloid diversity of this species. Conclusion: These results contribute by indicating potential biotechnological targets Erythrina alkaloids biosynthesis as well as to improve molecular databases with omic data from a non-model medicinal plant. Furthermore, they reveal an interesting chemical diversity in Erythrina velutina harvested in Caatinga. Last, but not least, this data may also contribute to tap Brazilian biodiversity in a rational and sustainable fashion, promoting adequate public policies for preservation and protection of sensitive areas within the Caatinga.