To decipher the relation between α-farnesene metabolism and the development of superficial scald in apples, trans,trans-α-farnesene synthase, the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of farnesyl pyrophosphate to α-farnesene, was partially purified from skin tissue of `Delicious' apples (Malus ×domestica Borkh.) and characterized. Total and specific activities of the enzyme were higher in the cytosolic fraction than in membrane fractions. α-Farnesene synthase was purified 70-fold from the cytosolic fraction by ion exchange chromatography and gel permeation, and the native molecular weight was estimated to be 108,000. The enzyme had optimal activity at a pH of 5.6 and absolutely required a divalent metal ion such as Mg2+ or Mn2+ for activity. It exhibited allosteric kinetics, S(0.5) for farnesyl pyrophosphate being 84±18 μmol·L-1, and a Hill coefficient (nH) of 2.9, indicating the number of subunits to be two or three. Enzyme activity was highest between 10 and 20 °C, while 50% of the maximal activity was retained at 0 °C. In vivo α-farnesene synthase activity was minimal at harvest, then increased rapidly during 16 weeks storage in air at 0 °C, and decreased during further storage. Activity of α-farnesene synthase, α-farnesene content, and conjugated triene alcohol (the putative scald-causing oxidation product of α-farnesene) content in skin tissue were not correlated to the inherent nature of scald susceptibility or resistance in 11 apple cultivars tested.
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