In response to biotic stress, plants reshape their complement of lipids to produce suites of highly modified fatty acids that bear unusual chemical functionality. Despite their chemical complexity, proposed roles in pathogen defense and presence in crop plants, little is known about the biosynthesis of these decorated fatty acids. Falcarindiol is a prototypical member of a suite of acetylenic lipids from carrot, tomato, and celery that inhibits growth of several fungal strains and human cancer cell lines. Here we report a set of clustered genes in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) that are required for the production of falcarindiol in leaves in response to treatment with an adapted fungal pathogen, Cladosporium fulvum. Our approach is based on correlation of untargeted transcriptomic and metabolomic data sets in order to rapidly identify a candidate biosynthetic pathway. By reconstituting the initial biosynthetic steps in a heterologous host (Nicotiana benthamiana) and generating stable transgenic pathway mutants in tomato, we demonstrate a direct role for three genes in the cluster in falcarindiol biosynthesis. This work reveals a mechanism by which plants sculpt their lipid pool in response to pathogens, and provides critical insight into the biochemistry of alkynyl lipid production.
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