Unraveling the biosynthesis of quinolizidine alkaloids using the genetic and chemical diversity of Mexican lupins

Astrid Ramírez-Betancourt, Arianna Michelle Hernández-Sánchez, Guadalupe Salcedo-Morales, Elsa Ventura-Zapata, Norma Robledo, Michael Wink, Kalina Bermúdez-Torres

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2 Scopus citations


Quinolizidine alkaloids (QAs) are synthesized by the genus Lupinus as a defense against herbivores. Synthesis of QAs in lupins is species-and organ-specific. Knowledge about their bio-synthesis and their corresponding pathways are still fragmentary, in part because lupins of com-mercial importance were mainly investigated, representing a small sample of the chemodiversity of the genus. Here, we explore the use of three Mexican lupins: Lupinus aschenbornii, Lupinus montanus, and Lupinus bilineatus as a model to study the physiology of QA biosynthesis. The corresponding QA patterns cover widely and narrowly distributed tetracyclic QAs. Quinolizidine alkaloid patterns of seeds and plantlets at different developmental stages were determined by GLC–MS and com-pared to identify the onset of de novo QA synthesis and to gain insight into specific and common biosynthesis trends. Onset of de novo QA biosynthesis occurred after the metabolization of seed QA during germination and was species-specific, as expected. A common QA pattern, from which the diversity of QA observed in these species is generated, was not found; however, lupanine and 3β-lupanine were found in the three specieswhile sparteine was not found in Lupinus bilineatus, suggesting that this simplest tetracyclic QA is not the precursor of more complex QAs. Similar patterns of metabolization and biosynthesis of structurally related QAs were observed, suggesting a common regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number375
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Chemodiversity
  • Fabaceae
  • Germination
  • Lysine
  • Secondary metabolism


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