Interspecies comparative features of trichomes in Ocimum reveal insights for biosynthesis of specialized essential oil metabolites

Research paper by Shiwani Maurya, Muktesh Chandra, Ritesh K. Yadav, Lokesh K. Narnoliya, Rajender S. Sangwan, Shilpi Bansal, Pankajpreet Sandhu, Umesh Singh, Devender Kumar, Neelam Singh Sangwan

Indexed on: 18 Jan '19Published on: 18 Jan '19Published in: Protoplasma


Ocimum species commonly referred to as “Tulsi” are well-known for their distinct medicinal and aromatic properties. The characteristic aroma of Ocimum species and cultivars is attributed to their specific combination of volatile phytochemicals mainly belonging to terpenoid and/or phenylpropanoid classes in their essential oils. The essential oil constituents are synthesized and sequestered in specialized epidermal secretory structures called as glandular trichomes. In this comparative study, inter- and intra-species diversity in structural attributes and profiles of expression of selected genes related to terpenoid and phenylpropanoid biosynthetic pathways have been investigated. This is performed to seek relationship of variations in the yield and phytochemical composition of the essential oils. Microscopic analysis of trichomes of O. basilicum, O. gratissimum, O. kilimandscharicum, and O. tenuiflorum (green and purple cultivars) revealed substantial variations in density, size, and relative proportions of peltate and capitate trichomes among them. The essential oil yield has been observed to be controlled by the population, dominance, and size of peltate and capitate glandular trichomes. The essential oil sequestration in leaf is controlled by the dominance of peltate glandular trichome size over its number and is also affected by the capitate glandular trichome size/number with variations in leaf area albeit at lower proportions. Comprehension and comparison of results of GC-MS analysis of essential oils showed that most of the Ocimum (O. basilicum, O. tenuiflorum, and O. gratissimum) species produce phenylpropanoids (eugenol, methyl chavicol) as major volatiles except O. kilimandscharicum, which is discrete in being monoterpenoid-rich species. Among the phenylpropanoid-enriched Ocimum (O. basilicum, O. gratissimum, O. tenuiflorum purple, O. tenuiflorum green) as well, terpenoids were important constituents in imparting characteristic aroma. Further, comparative abundance of transcripts of key genes of phenylpropanoid (PAL, C4H, 4CL, CAD, COMT, and ES) and terpenoid (DXS and HMGR) biosynthetic pathways was evaluated vis-à-vis volatile oil constituents. Transcript abundance demonstrated that richness of their essential oils with specific constituent(s) of a chemical group/subgroup was manifested by the predominant upregulation of phenylpropanoid/terpenoid pathway genes. The study provides trichomes as well as biosynthetic pathway-based knowledge for genetic improvement in Ocimum species for essential oil yield and quality.