Discovery of a key enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of the fragrance scaffold in agarwood


The research group of Prof. Hiroyuki Morita (Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama) identified a key enzyme involved in the formation of the fragrance scaffold in agarwood under collaboration with Prof. She-Po Shi (Modern Research Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine), Prof. Peng-Fei Tu(School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Peking University), and Prof. Ikuro Abe (Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of Tokyo). The findings provided insight into development of the efficient artificial production system of agarwood using the pecps gene expression as an indicator.


Agarwood is highly expensive aromatic wood as well as a crude drug with ataractic effect. Its fragrances, 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromones, is accumulated by prolonged stress such as bacterial infection. Due to such process, only a few % of original plants are converted into agarwood in nature. In order to produce agarwood artificially, much efforts such as stressing the original plant have been attempted, but in spite of the cost and labor involved, such products are not always successfully utilized as agarwood. Due to the rarity of agarwood, the market price is always extremely high. Thus, dense planting never ceased and the number of the original plants has been dramatically reduced. Hence, development of effective mythology has been required.

Significance of the research and future prospects

  Here, the researchers found candidate genes from the genome of agarwood callus, and unveiled that one of the genes can produce the fragrance scaffold by evaluating the enzyme function. The findings will contribute to the further exploration of the mechanism of agarwood formation and thus might be beneficial for the protection of the ecology of agarwood producing plants, which have been seriously destroyed by overharvesting and logging.

Publication information


Nature Communication

Publication Date

Jan. 17, 2022


Identification of a diarylpentanoid-producing polyketide synthase revealing an unusual biosynthetic pathway of 2-(2-phenylethyl)chromones in agarwood


Wang X, Gao B, Nakashima Y, Mori T, Zhang Z, Kodama T, Lee Y, Zhang Z, Wong CP, Liu Q, Qi B, Wang J, Li J, Liu X, Abe I, Morta H, Tu P, Shi S.