The electron transfer molecules plastoquinone and ubiquinone are formed by the condensation of aromatic head groups with long-chain prenyl diphosphates. In the present paper we report the cloning and characterization of two genes from tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) responsible for the production of solanesyl and decaprenyl diphosphates. SlSPS (S. lycopersicum solanesyl diphosphate synthase) is targeted to the plastid and both solanesol and plastoquinone are associated with thylakoid membranes. A second gene [SlDPS (S. lycopersicum solanesyl decaprenyl diphosphate synthase)], encodes a long-chain prenyl diphosphate synthase with a different subcellular localization from SlSPS and can utilize geranyl, farnesyl or geranylgeranyl diphosphates in the synthesis of C45 and C50 prenyl diphosphates. When expressed in Escherichia coli, SlSPS and SlDPS extend the prenyl chain length of the endogenous ubiquinone to nine and ten isoprene units respectively. In planta, constitutive overexpression of SlSPS elevated the plastoquinone content of immature tobacco leaves. Virus-induced gene silencing showed that SlSPS is necessary for normal chloroplast structure and function. Plants silenced for SlSPS were photobleached and accumulated phytoene, whereas silencing SlDPS did not affect leaf appearance, but impacted on primary metabolism. The two genes were not able to complement silencing of each other. These findings indicate a requirement for two long-chain prenyl diphosphate synthases in the tomato.

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