Prof. Xiaoquan Qi's group works on plant secondary metabolism and disease resistance. CYP51 sterol demethylases are the only cytochrome P450 enzymes with a conserved function across the animal, fungal, and plant kingdoms (in the synthesis of essential sterols). These highly conserved enzymes, which are important targets for cholesterol-lowering drugs, antifungal agents, and herbicides, are considered the most ancient member of the cytochrome P450 family. In cooperation with colleagues in the UK and France, the investigators revealed that CYP51 enzyme has acquired a different function. They showed that the plant enzyme AsCYP51H10 is dispensable for synthesis of essential sterols and has been recruited for the production of antimicrobial compounds (avenacins) that confer disease resistance in oats.
Figure. Modeling of the active cavity site of oats AsCYP51H10 based on the Mycobacterium tuberculosis MtCYP51B1 crystal structure.