Nutrient depletion as a key factor for manipulating gene expression and product formation in different branches of the flavonoid pathway

Author(s): Lillo C, Lea US, Ruoff P


The content of flavonoids increases in response to nitrogen and phosphorus depletion in plants. Manipulation of these macronutrients may therefore be used to control the levels of desirable compounds and improve plant quality. Key enzymes in the shikimate pathway, which feeds precursors into the flavonoid pathway, are regulated post-translationally by feedback from aromatic amino acids, and possibly by redox control through photosynthesis. Use of microarrays for global transcript analysis in Arabidopsis has revealed that transcript levels are less influenced by mineral nutrients in the shikimate pathway compared with the flavonoid pathway. The responses in the shikimate pathway appear complex, whereas in the flavonoid pathway, a single gene often responds similarly to mineral depletion, high light intensity and sucrose. MYB [production of anthocyanin pigment 1 (PAP1)/production of anthocyanin pigment 2 (PAP2)] and bHLH [GLABRA3 (GL3)] transcription factors are important for the nutrient depletion response. PAP1/2 stimulate gross activation of the flavonoid pathway, and different investigations support merging signal transduction chains for various abiotic treatments on PAP1/2. Flavonol synthase is not part of the PAP1/2 regulon, and expression is mainly enhanced by high light intensity and sucrose, not mineral depletion. Nevertheless, both cyanidin and flavonol derivatives increase in response to nitrogen depletion. Kaempferols are the dominating flavonols in Arabidopsis leaves under normal cultivation conditions, but quercetin accumulation can be triggered by nitrogen depletion in combination with other abiotic factors.

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