p-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase catalyses the transformation of p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate into homogentisate. In plants this enzyme has a crucial role because homogentisate is the aromatic precursor of all prenylquinones. Furthermore this enzyme was recently identified as the molecular target for new families of potent herbicides. In this study we examine precisely the localization of p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase activity within carrot cells. Our results provide evidence that, in cultured carrot cells, p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase is associated with the cytosol. Purification and SDS/PAGE analysis of this enzyme revealed that its activity is associated with a polypeptide of 45–46 kDa. This protein specifically cross-reacts with an antiserum raised against the p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase of Pseudomonas fluorescens. Gel-filtration chromatography indicates that the enzyme behaves as a homodimer. We also report the isolation and nucleotide sequence of a cDNA encoding a carrot p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase. The nucleotide sequence (1684 bp) encodes a protein of 442 amino acid residues with a molecular mass of 48094 Da and shows specific C-terminal regions of similarity with other p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenases. This cDNA encodes a functional p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase, as evidenced by expression studies with transformed Escherichia coli cells. Comparison of the N-terminal sequence of the 45–46 kDa polypeptide purified from carrot cells with the deduced peptide sequence of the cDNA confirms that this polypeptide supports p-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase activity. Immunodetection studies of the native enzyme in carrot cellular extracts reveal that N-terminal proteolysis occurs during the process of purification. This proteolysis explains the difference in molecular masses between the purified protein and the deduced polypeptide.

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