The aspartate-derived amino-acid pathway leads to the production of the essential amino-acids lysine, methionine, threonine and isoleucine. Aspartate kinase (AK) is the first enzyme in this pathway and exists in isoforms that are feedback inhibited by lysine and threonine. Two maize (Zea mays L.) threonine-overproducing, lysine-insensitive AK mutants (Ask1-LT19 and Ask2-LT20) were previously isolated. The present study was conducted to determine the map location of Ask2 and to examine the amino-acid profiles of the Ask mutants. The threonine-overproducing trait conferred by Ask2-LT20 was mapped to the long arm of chromosome 2. Both mutants exhibited increased free threonine concentrations (nmol/mg dry weight) over wild-type. The percent free threonine increased from approximately 2% in wild-type kernels to 37-54% of the total free amino-acid pool in homozygous mutant kernels. Free methionine concentrations also increased significantly in homozygous mutants. Free lysine concentrations were increased but to a much lesser extent than threonine or methionine. In contrast to previous studies, free aspartate concentrations were observed to decrease, indicating a possible limiting factor in threonine synthesis. Total (free plus protein-bound) amino-acid analyses demonstrated a consistent, significant increase in threonine, methionine and lysine concentrations in the homozygous mutants. Significant increases in protein-bound (total minus free) threonine, methionine and lysine were observed in the Ask mutants, indicating adequate protein sinks to incorporate the increased free amino-acid concentrations. Total amino-acid contents (nmol/kernel) were approximately the same for mutant and wild-type kernels. In five inbred lines both Ask mutations conferred the threonine-overproducing phenotype, indicating high expressivity in different genetic backgrounds. These analyses are discussed in the context of the regulation of the aspartate-derived amino-acid pathway.
- Aspartate kinase Threonine-overproducing mutants
- Zea mays