Most of the known 4-coumarate:coenzyme A ligase (4CL) isoforms lack CoA-ligation activity for sinapic acid. Therefore, there is some doubt as to whether sinapic acid contributes to sinapyl alcohol biosynthesis. In this study, we characterized the enzyme activity of a protein mixture extracted from the developing xylem of Robinia pseudoacacia. The crude protein mixture contained at least two 4CLs with sinapic acid 4-CoA ligation activity. The crude enzyme preparation displayed negligible sinapaldehyde dehydrogenase activity, but showed ferulic acid 5-hydroxylation activity and 5-hydroxyferulic acid O-methyltransferase activity; these activities were retained in the presence of competitive substrates (coniferaldehyde and 5-hydroxyconiferaldehyde, respectively). 5-Hydroxyferulic acid and sinapic acid accumulated in the developing xylem of R. pseudoacacia, suggesting, in part at least, sinapic acid is a sinapyl alcohol precursor in this species.
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