Anthocyanins are the largest group of plant pigments responsible for colors ranging from red to violet and blue. The biosynthesis of anthocyanins, as part of the larger phenylpropanoid pathway, has been characterized in great detail. In contrast to the detailed molecular knowledge available on anthocyanin synthesis, very little is known about the stability and catabolism of anthocyanins in plants. In this study we present a preliminary characterization of active in planta degradation of anthocyanins, requiring novel mRNA and protein synthesis, in Brunfelsia calycina flowers. Brunfelsia is a unique system for this study, since the decrease in pigment concentration in its flowers (from dark purple to white) is extreme and rapid, and occurs at a specific and well-defined stage of flower development. Treatment of detached flowers with protein and mRNA synthesis inhibitors, at specific stages of flower development, prevented degradation. In addition, treatment of detached flowers with cytokinins delayed senescence without changing the rate of anthocyanin degradation, suggesting that degradation of anthocyanins is not part of the general senescence process of the flowers but rather a distinctive and specific pathway. Based on studies on anthocyanin degradation in wine and juices, peroxidases are reasonable candidates for the in vivo degradation. A significant increase in peroxidase activity was shown to correlate in time with the rate of anthocyanin degradation. An additional indication that oxidative enzymes are involved in the process is the fact that treatment of flowers with reducing agents, such as DTT and glutathione, caused inhibition of degradation. This study represents the first step in the elucidation of the molecular mechanism behind in vivo anthocyanin degradation in plants.
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Acknowledgements We thank Galil Nurseries for supplying the plants for this study. We also thank Prof. Joseph Kanner for many helpful discussions. This research was supported by the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Agriculture Ministry.
- Anthocyanin degradation