An NPF transporter exports a central monoterpene indole alkaloid intermediate from the vacuole


Plants sequester intermediates of metabolic pathways into different cellular compartments, but the mechanisms by which these molecules are transported remain poorly understood. Monoterpene indole alkaloids, a class of specialized metabolites that includes the anticancer agent vincristine, antimalarial quinine and neurotoxin strychnine, are synthesized in several different cellular locations. However, the transporters that control the movement of these biosynthetic intermediates within cellular compartments have not been discovered. Here we present the discovery of a tonoplast localized nitrate/peptide family (NPF) transporter from Catharanthus roseus, CrNPF2.9, that exports strictosidine, the central intermediate of this pathway, into the cytosol from the vacuole. This discovery highlights the role that intracellular localization plays in specialized metabolism, and sets the stage for understanding and controlling the central branch point of this pharmacologically important group of compounds.

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Figure 1: Localization of the MIA pathway in C. roseus.
Figure 2: Self-organizing map of C. roseus transcriptomic data.
Figure 3: In planta silencing of CrNPF2.9.
Figure 4: Overexpression of CrNPF2.9–YFP in C. roseus and onion cells.
Figure 5: In vitro characterization of CrNPF2.9.


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This work was supported by grants from the European Research Council (311363), BBSRC (BB/J004561/1) (S.E.O.), Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF99 for D.X., V.N., M.B., H.H.N., B.A.H. and 10-082858 for F.G.-F.), the Innovation Fund Denmark ( 76-2014-3) (H.H.N.) and from the Région Centre, France (ABISAL grant; E.F., A.O., T.D.D.B., V.C.). R.M.E.P. was supported by a BBSRC Studentship.

Author information




R.M.E.P. made the initial discovery of CrNPF2.9 and designed and carried out all silencing experiments; D.X. and H.H.N-E designed and carried out kinetic experiments; E.F., M.I.S.T.C., T.D.B. and V.C. designed and carried out localization experiments; F.G-F., S.E.O., H.H.N-E, V.C. and B.A.H. contributed to the conception and design of the experiments; R.M.E.P., D.X., E.F., M.I.S.T.C., A.O., T.D.B, V.N., M.B., C-E.O, D.M.J., E.C.T. and A.P. contributed to the acquisition of data; R.M.E.P., D.X., E.F., M.I.S.T.C., F.G-F., V.C., H.H.N-E. and S.E.O. contributed to data analysis and interpretation; R.M.E.P. and S.E.O. drafted the manuscript and all authors critically revised and approved the final version of the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. O'Connor.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Payne, R., Xu, D., Foureau, E. et al. An NPF transporter exports a central monoterpene indole alkaloid intermediate from the vacuole. Nature Plants 3, 16208 (2017).

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