Complex scaffold remodeling in plant triterpene biosynthesis

Ricardo De La Pena, Hannah Hodgson, Chun-Ting Liu, Michael J Stephenson, Azahara Carmen Martin, Charlotte Owen, Alex Harkess, James Leebens-Mack, Luis Jimenez, Anne Osbourn, Elizabeth Sattely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Triterpenes with complex scaffold modifications are widespread in the plant kingdom. Limonoids are an exemplary family that are responsible for the bitter taste in citrus (e.g., limonin) and the active constituents of neem oil, a widely used bioinsecticide (e.g., azadirachtin). Despite the commercial value of limonoids, a complete biosynthetic route has not been described. We report the discovery of 22 enzymes, including a pair of neofunctionalized sterol isomerases, that catalyze 12 distinct reactions in the total biosynthesis of kihadalactone A and azadirone, products that bear the signature limonoid furan. These results enable access to valuable limonoids and provide a template for discovery and reconstitution of triterpene biosynthetic pathways in plants that require multiple skeletal rearrangements and oxidations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-368
Number of pages8
Issue number6630
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2023


  • Biosynthesis
  • Triterpenoids
  • Limonoids
  • Transient expression

Cite this