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Article|14 Mar 2022|OPEN
Role of female-predominant MYB39-bHLH13 complex in sexually dimorphic accumulation of taxol in Taxus media 
Chunna Yu1,2 , Jiefang Huang1,2 , Qicong Wu1,2 , Chengchao Zhang1,2 , Xiao-lin Li3 , Xinyun Xu1,2 , Shangguo Feng1,2 , Xiaori Zhan1,2 , Zhehao Chen1 , Huizhong Wang1,2 , , Chenjia Shen,1,2 ,
1College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou 310036, China
2Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory for Genetic Improvement and Quality Control of Medicinal Plants, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou 310036, China
3State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Dao-di Herbs, National Resource Center for Chinese Materia Medica, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing 100700, China
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,

Horticulture Research 9,
Article number: uhac062 (2022)
Views: 377

Received: 09 Oct 2021
Accepted: 28 Feb 2022
Published online: 14 Mar 2022


Taxus trees are major natural sources for the extraction of taxol, an anti-cancer agent used worldwide. Taxus media is a dioecious woody tree with high taxol yield. However, the sexually dimorphic accumulation of taxoids in T. media is largely unknown. Our study revealed high accumulation of taxoids in female T. media trees using a UPLC–MS/MS method. Thereafter, many differential metabolites and genes between female and male T. media trees were identified using metabolomic and transcriptomic analyses, respectively. Most of the taxol-related genes were predominantly expressed in female trees. A female-specific R2R3-MYB transcription factor gene, TmMYB39, was identified. Furthermore, bimolecular fluorescence complementation and yeast two-hybrid assays suggested the potential interaction between TmMYB39 and TmbHLH13. Several taxol biosynthesis-related promoter sequences were isolated and used for the screening of MYB recognition elements. The electrophoretic mobility shift assay indicated that TmMYB39 could bind to the promoters of the GGPPST10OHT13OH, and TBT genes. Interaction between TmMYB39 and TmbHLH13 transactivated the expression of the GGPPS and T10OH genes. TmMYB39 might function in the transcriptional regulation of taxol biosynthesis through an MYB-bHLH module. Our results give a potential explanation for the sexually dimorphic biosynthesis of taxol in T. media.