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    Fructans such as inulin and levan accumulate in certain taxonomic groups of plants and are a reserve carbohydrate alternative to starch. Onion (Allium cepa L.) is a typical plant species that accumulates fructans, and it synthesizes inulin-type and inulin neoseries-type fructans in the bulb. Although genes for fructan biosynthesis in onion have been identified so far, no genes for fructan degradation had been found. In this study, phylogenetic analysis predicted that we isolated a putative vacuolar invertase gene (AcpVI1), but our functional analyses demonstrated that it encoded a fructan 1-exohydrolase (1-FEH) instead. Assessments of recombinant proteins and purified native protein showed that the protein had 1-FEH activity, hydrolyzing the β-(2,1)-fructosyl linkage in inulin-type fructans. Interestingly, AcpVI1 had an amino acid sequence close to those of vacuolar invertases and fructosyltransferases, unlike all other FEHs previously found in plants. We showed that AcpVI1 was localized in the vacuole, as are onion fructosyltransferases Ac1-SST and Ac6G-FFT. These results indicate that fructan-synthesizing and -degrading enzymes are both localized in the vacuole. In contrast to previously reported FEHs, our data suggest that onion 1-FEH evolved from a vacuolar invertase and not from a cell wall invertase. This demonstrates that classic phylogenetic analysis on its own is insufficient to discriminate between invertases and FEHs, highlighting the importance of functional markers in the nearby active site residues. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email:


    Satoshi Oku, Keiji Ueno, Yukiko Sawazaki, Tomoo Maeda, Yutaka Jitsuyama, Takashi Suzuki, Shuichi Onodera, Kaien Fujino, Hanako Shimura. Functional characterization and vacuolar localization of fructan exohydrolase derived from onion (Allium cepa). Journal of experimental botany. 2022 Aug 11;73(14):4908-4922

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    PMID: 35552692

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