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1.  The Phytoene synthase gene family of apple (Malus x domestica) and its role in controlling fruit carotenoid content 
BMC Plant Biology  2015;15:185.
Carotenoid compounds play essential roles in plants such as protecting the photosynthetic apparatus and in hormone signalling. Coloured carotenoids provide yellow, orange and red colour to plant tissues, as well as offering nutritional benefit to humans and animals. The enzyme phytoene synthase (PSY) catalyses the first committed step of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway and has been associated with control of pathway flux. We characterised four PSY genes found in the apple genome to further understand their involvement in fruit carotenoid accumulation.
The apple PSY gene family, containing six members, was predicted to have three functional members, PSY1, PSY2, and PSY4, based on translation of the predicted gene sequences and/or corresponding cDNAs. However, only PSY1 and PSY2 showed activity in a complementation assay. Protein localisation experiments revealed differential localization of the PSY proteins in chloroplasts; PSY1 and PSY2 localized to the thylakoid membranes, while PSY4 localized to plastoglobuli. Transcript levels in ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Royal Gala’ apple cultivars showed PSY2 was most highly expressed in fruit and other vegetative tissues. We tested the transient activation of the apple PSY1 and PSY2 promoters and identified potential and differential regulation by AP2/ERF transcription factors, which suggested that the PSY genes are controlled by different transcriptional mechanisms.
The first committed carotenoid pathway step in apple is controlled by MdPSY1 and MdPSY2, while MdPSY4 play little or no role in this respect. This has implications for apple breeding programmes where carotenoid enhancement is a target and would allow co-segregation with phenotypes to be tested during the development of new cultivars.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-015-0573-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4517366  PMID: 26215656
Apple; Carotenoids; Fruit skin; Fruit flesh; Phytoene; Phytoene synthase; Promoter; Transient activation
2.  The phytoene synthase gene family in the Grasses 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(3):208-211.
Carotenoids are a complex class of isoprenoid pigments playing diverse roles in plants and providing nutritional value. Metabolic engineering of the biosynthetic pathway has been of interest to specifically address global vitamin A deficiency by breeding cereal crop staples in the Poaceae (Grass family) for elevated levels of provitamin A carotenoids. However, there remain open questions about the rate-controlling steps that limit predictability of metabolic engineering in plants, whether by transgenic or nontransgenic means. We decided to focus on the first committed biosynthetic step which is mediated by phytoene synthase. Our studies revealed that in the Grasses, PSY is encoded by three genes. Maize transcript profiling, together with carotenoid and ABA analysis, revealed that the three PSY copies have subfunctionalized and provide the Grasses with a fine tine control of carotenogenesis in response to various developmental and external cues. Promoter analysis supports subfunctionalization; cis-element analysis of maize PSY1 alleles and comparison with Grass orthologs suggests that man's selection of yellow maize endosperm has occurred at the expense of a change of gene regulation in photosynthetic tissue as compared to the progenitor white endosperm PSY1 allele.
PMCID: PMC2652530  PMID: 19721751
carotenoid biosynthesis; phytoene synthase; gene subfunctionalization; ABA; abiotic stress; transcriptional regulation
3.  Functional Analysis of the Brassica napus L. Phytoene Synthase (PSY) Gene Family 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114878.
Phytoene synthase (PSY) has been shown to catalyze the first committed and rate-limiting step of carotenogenesis in several crop species, including Brassica napus L. Due to its pivotal role, PSY has been a prime target for breeding and metabolic engineering the carotenoid content of seeds, tubers, fruits and flowers. In Arabidopsis thaliana, PSY is encoded by a single copy gene but small PSY gene families have been described in monocot and dicotyledonous species. We have recently shown that PSY genes have been retained in a triplicated state in the A- and C-Brassica genomes, with each paralogue mapping to syntenic locations in each of the three “Arabidopsis-like” subgenomes. Most importantly, we have shown that in B. napus all six members are expressed, exhibiting overlapping redundancy and signs of subfunctionalization among photosynthetic and non photosynthetic tissues. The question of whether this large PSY family actually encodes six functional enzymes remained to be answered. Therefore, the objectives of this study were to: (i) isolate, characterize and compare the complete protein coding sequences (CDS) of the six B. napus PSY genes; (ii) model their predicted tridimensional enzyme structures; (iii) test their phytoene synthase activity in a heterologous complementation system and (iv) evaluate their individual expression patterns during seed development. This study further confirmed that the six B. napus PSY genes encode proteins with high sequence identity, which have evolved under functional constraint. Structural modeling demonstrated that they share similar tridimensional protein structures with a putative PSY active site. Significantly, all six B. napus PSY enzymes were found to be functional. Taking into account the specific patterns of expression exhibited by these PSY genes during seed development and recent knowledge of PSY suborganellar localization, the selection of transgene candidates for metabolic engineering the carotenoid content of oilseeds is discussed.
PMCID: PMC4266642  PMID: 25506829
4.  Involvement of multiple phytoene synthase genes in tissue- and cultivar-specific accumulation of carotenoids in loquat 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(16):4679-4689.
Four phytoene synthase genes and several variants were characterized, and their evolution and function in differential carotenoid accumulation in leaf, peel, and flesh of white- and red-fleshed loquats were established.
Differences in carotenoid accumulation between tissues and cultivars is common in plants. White-fleshed loquat cultivars had low levels of carotenoids in the flesh, but accumulated carotenoids in peel when ripe, and the leaves accumulated similar carotenoids to those in the red-fleshed loquat cultivars. The catalytic activity and expression patterns of four phytoene synthase (PSY) genes, EjPSY1, EjPSY2A, EjPSY2B, and EjPSY3, were analysed to understand their roles in different loquat (Eriobotrya japonica Lindl.) types. EjPSY1 was responsible for carotenoid synthesis in the fruit peel but not the flesh, whereas EjPSY2A was responsible for carotenoid accumulation in flesh of ripening fruit. A mutant EjPSY2A d, with the same tissue specificity and expression level as EjPSY2A, but lacking the C-terminal region and corresponding catalytic activity, was discovered in white-fleshed varieties, explaining the lack of carotenoids in the white flesh. The catalytic role of EjPSY2B was most significant in leaves. The tissue-specific expression of EjPSY1 and EjPSY2B explained well how peel and leaf tissues can still accumulate carotenoids in white-fleshed cultivars, which have lost the functional EjPSY2A. EjPSY3 mRNA abundance was ~1000-fold less than that of other PSY mRNAs in all tissues examined. In addition, neither the normal sized transcript nor two alternatively spliced forms, EjPSY3α in LYQ and EjPSY3β in BS cultivars, encoded functional enzymes, and it is concluded that EjPSY3 plays no role in carotenoid accumulation. In addition, it was noted that recruitment of PSY genes for expression in specific tissues of different plants has occurred independently of gene structure and evolutionary origin.
PMCID: PMC4115255  PMID: 24935622
Carotenoid; function; loquat (Eriobotrya japonica); mutation; phytoene synthase; tissue-specific expression.
5.  Allelic Variation, Alternative Splicing and Expression Analysis of Psy1 Gene in Hordeum chilense Roem. et Schult 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19885.
The wild barley Hordeum chilense Roem. et Schult. is a valuable source of genes for increasing carotenoid content in wheat. Tritordeums, the amphiploids derived from durum or common wheat and H. chilense, systematically show higher values of yellow pigment colour and carotenoid content than durum wheat. Phytoene synthase 1 gene (Psy1) is considered a key step limiting the carotenoid biosynthesis, and the correlation of Psy1 transcripts accumulation and endosperm carotenoid content has been demonstrated in the main grass species.
Methodology/Principal findings
We analyze the variability of Psy1 alleles in three lines of H. chilense (H1, H7 and H16) representing the three ecotypes described in this species. Moreover, we analyze Psy1 expression in leaves and in two seed developing stages of H1 and H7, showing mRNA accumulation patterns similar to those of wheat. Finally, we identify thirty-six different transcripts forms originated by alternative splicing of the 5′ UTR and/or exons 1 to 5 of Psy1 gene. Transcripts function is tested in a heterologous complementation assay, revealing that from the sixteen different predicted proteins only four types (those of 432, 370, 364 and 271 amino acids), are functional in the bacterial system.
The large number of transcripts originated by alternative splicing of Psy1, and the coexistence of functional and non functional forms, suggest a fine regulation of PSY activity in H. chilense. This work is the first analysis of H. chilense Psy1 gene and the results reported here are the bases for its potential use in carotenoid enhancement in durum wheat.
PMCID: PMC3095628  PMID: 21603624
6.  Light-sensitive Phytochrome-Interacting Factors (PIFs) are not required to regulate phytoene synthase gene expression in the root 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2014;9:e29248.
Carotenoids are plastidial isoprenoids essential for the protection of photosynthetic tissues against excess light. They also serve as precursors of apocarotenoid hormones such as abscisic acid (ABA) and strigolactones. The first enzyme of the carotenoid pathway, phytoene synthase (PSY), is also the main rate-limiting step. Unlike that observed in most plants, PSY is encoded by a single gene in Arabidopsis thaliana. Whereas the PSY gene is induced by light in photosynthetic tissues, a root-specific upregulation of PSY expression by salt stress and ABA has been recently demonstrated. Here we report that transcription factors of the Phytochrome-Interacting Factor (PIF) family, previously shown to repress PSY expression in etiolated seedlings and mature leaves, do not influence PSY expression in roots. Together, our results suggest that organ-specific pathways regulate PSY expression and hence carotenoid production in response to different environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC4203534  PMID: 25763615
Arabidopsis; carotenoid; dark; PIF; phytoene synthase; root; salt
7.  The dual role of phytoene synthase genes in carotenogenesis in carrot roots and leaves 
Molecular Breeding  2014;34(4):2065-2079.
Carrot (Daucus carota L.) is an important food crop and is useful for studying carotenogenesis due to the quantity and diversity of carotenoids in its roots. Phytoene synthase catalyzes the first committed step in the carotenoid biosynthesis pathway, and its overexpression is the main driving force in the orange phenotype. At present, we lack fundamental knowledge of the role of these genes and their effects on carotenoid accumulation in leaves. In the present study, three backcross inbred lines (BC2S4) with different colored roots derived from a cross between the orange inbred line (Af) and related wild species were used to investigate the role of the duplicated DcPSY genes in root carotenogenesis. Promoter analysis showed that DcPSY genes have diverged substantially in their regulatory sequences after gene duplication. Expression levels of DcPSY1 and DcPSY2 were generally positively correlated with carotenoid content during root development. In mature leaves, total carotenoid content was higher than that in the roots, DcPSY1 expression increased extremely higher than DcPSY2 expression compared with roots, and DcPSY1 was more sensitive than DcPSY2 during leaf de-etiolation under sunlight. These results suggest that DcPSY1 seems to make an important contribution to carotenoid accumulation in the leaves and is important for photosynthesis and photoprotection, but they are not the determining factors of root color. This expands our understanding of the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis in carrot.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11032-014-0163-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4544633  PMID: 26316840
Carrot; Backcross inbred lines (BILs); Phytoene synthase gene; Carotenoids accumulation; De-etiolation
8.  Induced point mutations in the phytoene synthase 1 gene cause differences in carotenoid content during tomato fruit ripening 
Molecular Breeding  2011;29(3):801-812.
In tomato, carotenoids are important with regard to major breeding traits such as fruit colour and human health. The enzyme phytoene synthase (PSY1) directs metabolic flux towards carotenoid synthesis. Through TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions IN Genomes), we have identified two point mutations in the Psy1 gene. The first mutation is a knockout allele (W180*) and the second mutation leads to an amino acid substitution (P192L). Plants carrying the Psy1 knockout allele show fruit with a yellow flesh colour similar to the r, r mutant, with no further change in colour during ripening. In the line with P192L substitution, fruit remain yellow until 3 days post-breaker and eventually turn red. Metabolite profiling verified the absence of carotenoids in the W180* line and thereby confirms that PSY1 is the only enzyme introducing substrate into the carotenoid pathway in ripening fruit. More subtle effects on carotenoid accumulation were observed in the P192L line with a delay in lycopene and β-carotene accumulation clearly linked to a very slow synthesis of phytoene. The observation of lutein degradation with ripening in both lines showed that lutein and its precursors are still synthesised in ripening fruit. Gene expression analysis of key genes involved in carotenoid biosynthesis revealed that expression levels of genes in the pathway are not feedback-regulated by low levels or absence of carotenoid compounds. Furthermore, protein secondary structure modelling indicated that the P192L mutation affects PSY1 activity through misfolding, leading to the low phytoene accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3285762  PMID: 22408384
Carotenoids; Point mutation; Psy1; Tomato; TILLING
9.  Enhancement of carotenoids biosynthesis in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii by nuclear transformation using a phytoene synthase gene isolated from Chlorella zofingiensis 
The isolation and characterization of the phytoene synthase gene from the green microalga Chlorella zofingiensis (CzPSY), involved in the first step of the carotenoids biosynthetic pathway, have been performed. CzPSY gene encodes a polypeptide of 420 amino acids. A single copy of CzPSY has been found in C. zofingiensis by Southern blot analysis. Heterologous genetic complementation in Escherichia coli showed the ability of the predicted protein to catalyze the condensation of two molecules of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP) to form phytoene. Phylogenetic analysis has shown that the deduced protein forms a cluster with the rest of the phytoene synthases (PSY) of the chlorophycean microalgae studied, being very closely related to PSY of plants. This new isolated gene has been adequately inserted in a vector and expressed in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. The overexpression of CzPSY in C. reinhardtii, by nuclear transformation, has led to an increase in the corresponding CzPSY transcript level as well as in the content of the carotenoids violaxanthin and lutein which were 2.0- and 2.2-fold higher than in untransformed cells. This is an example of manipulation of the carotenogenic pathway in eukaryotic microalgae, which can open up the possibility of enhancing the productivity of commercial carotenoids by molecular engineering.
PMCID: PMC3125507  PMID: 21519934
Carotenoids; Chlorella zofingiensis; Phytoene synthase; Transgenic microalgae; Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
10.  Carotenoid Crystal Formation in Arabidopsis and Carrot Roots Caused by Increased Phytoene Synthase Protein Levels 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6373.
As the first pathway-specific enzyme in carotenoid biosynthesis, phytoene synthase (PSY) is a prime regulatory target. This includes a number of biotechnological approaches that have successfully increased the carotenoid content in agronomically relevant non-green plant tissues through tissue-specific PSY overexpression. We investigated the differential effects of constitutive AtPSY overexpression in green and non-green cells of transgenic Arabidopsis lines. This revealed striking similarities to the situation found in orange carrot roots with respect to carotenoid amounts and sequestration mechanism.
Methology/Principal Findings
In Arabidopsis seedlings, carotenoid content remained unaffected by increased AtPSY levels although the protein was almost quantitatively imported into plastids, as shown by western blot analyses. In contrast, non-photosynthetic calli and roots overexpressing AtPSY accumulated carotenoids 10 and 100-fold above the corresponding wild-type tissues and contained 1800 and 500 µg carotenoids per g dry weight, respectively. This increase coincided with a change of the pattern of accumulated carotenoids, as xanthophylls decreased relative to β-carotene and carotene intermediates accumulated. As shown by polarization microscopy, carotenoids were found deposited in crystals, similar to crystalline-type chromoplasts of non-green tissues present in several other taxa. In fact, orange-colored carrots showed a similar situation with increased PSY protein as well as carotenoid levels and accumulation patterns whereas wild white-rooted carrots were similar to Arabidopsis wild type roots in this respect. Initiation of carotenoid crystal formation by increased PSY protein amounts was further confirmed by overexpressing crtB, a bacterial PSY gene, in white carrots, resulting in increased carotenoid amounts deposited in crystals.
The sequestration of carotenoids into crystals can be driven by the functional overexpression of one biosynthetic enzyme in non-green plastids not requiring a chromoplast developmental program as this does not exist in Arabidopsis. Thus, PSY expression plays a major, rate-limiting role in the transition from white to orange-colored carrots.
PMCID: PMC2712097  PMID: 19636414
11.  Hordeum chilense genome, a useful tool to investigate the endosperm yellow pigment content in the Triticeae 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:200.
The wild barley Hordeum chilense fulfills some requirements for being a useful tool to investigate the endosperm yellow pigment content (YPC) in the Triticeae including its diploid constitution, the availability of genetic resources (addition and deletion stocks and a high density genetic map) and, especially, its high seed YPC not silenced in tritordeums (amphiploids derived from H. chilense and wheat). Thus, the aim of this work was to test the utility of the H. chilense genome for investigating the YPC in the Triticeae.
Twelve genes related to endosperm carotenoid content and/or YPC in grasses (Dxr, Hdr [synonym ispH], Ggpps1, Psy2, Psy3, Pds, Zds, e-Lcy, b-Lcy, Hyd3, Ccd1 and Ppo1) were identified, and mapped in H. chilense using rice genes to identify orthologs from barley, wheat, sorghum and maize. Macrocolinearity studies revealed that gene positions were in agreement in H. vulgare and H. chilense. Additionally, three main regions associated with YPC were identified in chromosomes 2Hch, 3Hch and 7Hch in H. chilense, the former being the most significant one.
The results obtained are consistent with previous findings in wheat and suggest that Ggpps1, Zds and Hyd3 on chromosome 2Hch may be considered candidate genes in wheat for further studies in YPC improvement. Considering the syntenic location of carotenoid genes in H. chilense, we have concluded that the Hch genome may constitute a valuable tool for YPC studies in the Triticeae.
PMCID: PMC3534404  PMID: 23122232
Yellow pigment content (YPC); Macrocolinearity; Candidate genes; H. chilense; H. vulgare
12.  A transcriptional analysis of carotenoid, chlorophyll and plastidial isoprenoid biosynthesis genes during development and osmotic stress responses in Arabidopsis thaliana 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:77.
The carotenoids are pure isoprenoids that are essential components of the photosynthetic apparatus and are coordinately synthesized with chlorophylls in chloroplasts. However, little is known about the mechanisms that regulate carotenoid biosynthesis or the mechanisms that coordinate this synthesis with that of chlorophylls and other plastidial synthesized isoprenoid-derived compounds, including quinones, gibberellic acid and abscisic acid. Here, a comprehensive transcriptional analysis of individual carotenoid and isoprenoid-related biosynthesis pathway genes was performed in order to elucidate the role of transcriptional regulation in the coordinated synthesis of these compounds and to identify regulatory components that may mediate this process in Arabidopsis thaliana.
A global microarray expression correlation analysis revealed that the phytoene synthase gene, which encodes the first dedicated and rate-limiting enzyme of carotenogenesis, is highly co-expressed with many photosynthesis-related genes including many isoprenoid-related biosynthesis pathway genes. Chemical and mutant analysis revealed that induction of the co-expressed genes following germination was dependent on gibberellic acid and brassinosteroids (BR) but was inhibited by abscisic acid (ABA). Mutant analyses further revealed that expression of many of the genes is suppressed in dark grown plants by Phytochrome Interacting transcription Factors (PIFs) and activated by photoactivated phytochromes, which in turn degrade PIFs and mediate a coordinated induction of the genes. The promoters of PSY and the co-expressed genes were found to contain an enrichment in putative BR-auxin response elements and G-boxes, which bind PIFs, further supporting a role for BRs and PIFs in regulating expression of the genes. In osmotically stressed root tissue, transcription of Calvin cycle, methylerythritol 4-phosphate pathway and carotenoid biosynthesis genes is induced and uncoupled from that of chlorophyll biosynthesis genes in a manner that is consistent with the increased synthesis of carotenoid precursors for ABA biosynthesis. In all tissues examined, induction of β-carotene hydroxylase transcript levels are linked to an increased demand for ABA.
This analysis provides compelling evidence to suggest that coordinated transcriptional regulation of isoprenoid-related biosynthesis pathway genes plays a major role in coordinating the synthesis of functionally related chloroplast localized isoprenoid-derived compounds.
PMCID: PMC3123201  PMID: 21595952
13.  A Root Specific Induction of Carotenoid Biosynthesis Contributes to ABA Production upon Salt Stress in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90765.
Abscisic acid (ABA) is a hormone that plays a vital role in mediating abiotic stress responses in plants. Salt exposure induces the synthesis of ABA through the cleavage of carotenoid precursors (xanthophylls), which are found at very low levels in roots. Here we show that de novo ABA biosynthesis in salt-treated Arabidopsis thaliana roots involves an organ-specific induction of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway. Upregulation of the genes encoding phytoene synthase (PSY) and other enzymes of the pathway producing ABA precursors was observed in roots but not in shoots after salt exposure. A pharmacological block of the carotenoid pathway substantially reduced ABA levels in stressed roots, confirming that an increase in carotenoid accumulation contributes to fuel hormone production after salt exposure. Treatment with exogenous ABA was also found to upregulate PSY expression only in roots, suggesting an organ-specific feedback regulation of the carotenoid pathway by ABA. Taken together, our results show that the presence of high concentrations of salt in the growth medium rapidly triggers a root-specific activation of the carotenoid pathway, probably to ensure a proper supply of ABA precursors required for a sustained production of the hormone.
PMCID: PMC3942475  PMID: 24595399
14.  Effect of an Introduced Phytoene Synthase Gene Expression on Carotenoid Biosynthesis in the Marine Diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum 
Marine Drugs  2015;13(8):5334-5357.
Carotenoids exert beneficial effects on human health through their excellent antioxidant activity. To increase carotenoid productivity in the marine Pennales Phaeodactylum tricornutum, we genetically engineered the phytoene synthase gene (psy) to improve expression because RNA-sequencing analysis has suggested that the expression level of psy is lower than other enzyme-encoding genes that are involved in the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway. We isolated psy from P. tricornutum, and this gene was fused with the enhanced green fluorescent protein gene to detect psy expression. After transformation using the microparticle bombardment technique, we obtained several P. tricornutum transformants and confirmed psy expression in their plastids. We investigated the amounts of PSY mRNA and carotenoids, such as fucoxanthin and β-carotene, at different growth phases. The introduction of psy increased the fucoxanthin content of a transformants by approximately 1.45-fold relative to the levels in the wild-type diatom. However, some transformants failed to show a significant increase in the carotenoid content relative to that of the wild-type diatom. We also found that the amount of PSY mRNA at log phase might contribute to the increase in carotenoids in the transformants at stationary phase.
PMCID: PMC4557025  PMID: 26308005
microalgae; marine diatom; transformation; PSY; carotenoid
15.  Colors in the dark 
Plant Signaling & Behavior  2009;4(10):965-967.
Carotenoids are plastidial isoprenoid pigments essential for plant life. High carotenoid levels are found in chloroplasts and chromoplasts, but they are also produced in the etioplasts of seedlings that germinate in the dark. Our recent work has shown that an enhanced production of carotenoids in plastids of dark-grown Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings results in an improved transition to photosynthetic development (greening) upon illumination, illustrating the relevance of regulating etioplast carotenoid biosynthesis for plant fitness. We showed that the biosynthesis of etioplast carotenoids is controlled at the level of phytoene synthase (PSY), the enzyme catalyzing the first committed step of the pathway. Upregulation of PSY is necessary and sufficient to increase the production of carotenoids in dark-grown seedlings, in part because it triggers a feedback mechanism leading to the post-transcriptional accumulation of flux-controlling enzymes of the methylerythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway, which synthesizes the substrates for PSY activity. Based on these and other recent data on the molecular mechanisms controlling deetiolation, we propose a model for the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis in etioplasts.
PMCID: PMC2801363  PMID: 19826226
carotenoid; deetiolation; etioplast; feedback regulation; MEP pathway
16.  Plastid structure and carotenogenic gene expression in red- and white-fleshed loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) fruits 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;63(1):341-354.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica Lindl.) can be sorted into red- and white-fleshed cultivars. The flesh of Luoyangqing (LYQ, red-fleshed) appears red-orange because of a high content of carotenoids while the flesh of Baisha (BS, white-fleshed) appears ivory white due to a lack of carotenoid accumulation. The carotenoid content in the peel and flesh of LYQ was approximately 68 μg g−1 and 13 μg g−1 fresh weight (FW), respectively, and for BS 19 μg g−1 and 0.27 μg g−1 FW. The mRNA levels of 15 carotenogenesis-related genes were analysed during fruit development and ripening. After the breaker stage (S4), the mRNA levels of phytoene synthase 1 (PSY1) and chromoplast-specific lycopene β-cyclase (CYCB) were higher in the peel, and CYCB and β-carotene hydroxylase (BCH) mRNAs were higher in the flesh of LYQ, compared with BS. Plastid morphogenesis during fruit ripening was also studied. The ultrastructure of plastids in the peel of BS changed less than in LYQ during fruit development. Two different chromoplast shapes were observed in the cells of LYQ peel and flesh at the fully ripe stage. Carotenoids were incorporated in the globules in chromoplasts of LYQ and BS peel but were in a crystalline form in the chromoplasts of LYQ flesh. However, no chromoplast structure was found in the cells of fully ripe BS fruit flesh. The mRNA level of plastid lipid-associated protein (PAP) in the peel and flesh of LYQ was over five times higher than in BS peel and flesh. In conclusion, the lower carotenoid content in BS fruit was associated with the lower mRNA levels of PSY1, CYCB, and BCH; however, the failure to develop normal chromoplasts in BS flesh is the most convincing explanation for the lack of carotenoid accumulation. The expression of PAP was well correlated with chromoplast numbers and carotenoid accumulation, suggesting its possible role in chromoplast biogenesis or interconversion of loquat fruit.
PMCID: PMC3245473  PMID: 21994170
Carotenoid; chloroplast; chromoplast; colour; gene expression; fruit development; fruit ripening; loquat; plastid
17.  The Accumulation of Crocin and Geniposide and Transcripts of Phytoene Synthase during Maturation of Gardenia jasminoides Fruit 
Gardenia fruit (fruit of Gardenia jasminoides Ellis) is used as a natural pigment resource and a Chinese traditional medicine. The white mesocarp turning orange or red that occurs during gardenia fruit maturation arises from the production and accumulation of the apocarotenoids, especially crocin-1, which is derived from carotenoid. Meanwhile, the major medical component geniposide is accumulated in gardenia fruit. To further our understanding of the synthetic and accumulation mechanism for crocin-1 and geniposide in gardenia fruit, the contents of crocin-1 and geniposide and the transcripts of phytoene synthase (GjPSY) profiles in gardenia fruits were examined at various stages of maturation. The concentration of crocin-1 and geniposide in gardenia fruit was determined by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The results showed that the concentration of crocetin-1 was increased during fruit development and the concentration of geniposide does not change significantly during maturing. The expression levels of GjPSY mRNA were examined by RT-PCR. It was revealed that GjPSY was constitutively expressed during fruit development, suggesting that the primary mechanism that controls crocin accumulation in G. jasminoides fruits during development is not correlated to the differential regulation of transcript levels of GjPSY gene.
PMCID: PMC3619689  PMID: 23634173
18.  RNA interference-based gene silencing of phytoene synthase impairs growth, carotenoids, and plastid phenotype in Oncidium hybrid orchid 
SpringerPlus  2014;3:478.
Phytoene synthase (PSY) is the first rate-limiting regulatory enzyme in the carotenoid biosynthesis pathway. In order to modify the floral color pattern by reducing carotenoid contents, a phytoene synthase-RNAi construct was delivered into protocorm-like body (PLB) of Oncidium hybrid orchid. The transgenic orchids show down-regulated level of PSY and geranyl synthase gene. They displayed semi-dwarf phenotype and brilliant green leaves. The microscopic anatomy revealed development-arrested plastids with rare grana. The total carotenoid content was decreased and the efficiency of the photosynthetic electron transport was declined. The chlorophyll level and the expression of chlorophyll biosynthetic genes, such as OgGLUTR and OgCS were dramatically reduced. HPLC analysis showed that the endogenous level of gibberellic acid and abscisic acid in the dwarf transformants are 4-fold lower than in wild type plants. In addition, chilling tolerance of the transgenic Oncidium plants was reduced. The data showed that down-regulation of PSY resulted in alterations of gene expression in enzymes involved in many metabolic pathways, such as carotenoid, gibberellic acid, abscisic acid and chlorophyll biosynthetic pathway as well as causes predominant defects in plant growth and development.
PMCID: PMC4161717  PMID: 25221736
Carotenoid; Oncidium orchid; Phytoene synthase; Plastid; RNA interference
19.  Comparative analysis of carotenoid accumulation in two goji (Lycium barbarum L. and L. ruthenicum Murr.) fruits 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:269.
The traditional Chinese medicinal plants Lycium barbarum L. and L. ruthenicum Murr. are valued for the abundance of bioactive carotenoids and anthocyanins in their fruits, respectively. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms contributing to their species-specific bioactive profiles remain poorly understood.
In this study, the red fruit (RF) of L. barbarum was found to accumulate high levels of carotenoids (primarily zeaxanthin), while they were undetectable in the black fruit (BF) of L. ruthenicum. Cytological and gene transcriptional analyses revealed that the chromoplast differentiation that occurs in the chloroplast during fruit ripening only occurs in RF, indicating that the lack of chromoplast biogenesis in BF leads to no sink for carotenoid storage and the failure to synthesize carotenoids. Similar enzyme activities of phytoene synthase 1 (PSY1), chromoplast-specific lycopene β-cyclase (CYC-B) and β-carotene hydroxylase 2 (CRTR-B2) were observed in both L. ruthenicum and L. barbarum, suggesting that the undetectable carotenoid levels in BF were not due to the inactivation of carotenoid biosynthetic enzymes. The transcript levels of the carotenoid biosynthetic genes, particularly PSY1, phytoene desaturase (PDS), ζ-carotene desaturase (ZDS), CYC-B and CRTR-B2, were greatly increased during RF ripening, indicating increased zeaxanthin biosynthesis. Additionally, carotenoid cleavage dioxygenase 4 (CCD4) was expressed at much higher levels in BF than in RF, suggesting continuous carotenoid degradation in BF.
The failure of the chromoplast development in BF causes low carotenoid biosynthesis levels and continuous carotenoid degradation, which ultimately leads to undetectable carotenoid levels in ripe BF. In contrast, the successful chromoplast biogenesis in RF furnishes the sink necessary for carotenoid storage. Based on this observation, the abundant zeaxanthin accumulation in RF is primarily determined via both the large carotenoid biosynthesis levels and the lack of carotenoid degradation, which are regulated at the transcriptional level.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0269-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4276078  PMID: 25511605
Carotenoids; Chromoplast; Fruit development; Gene expression; Lycium barbarum; L. ruthenicum
20.  Analysis of peptide PSY1 responding transcripts in the two Arabidopsis plant lines: wild type and psy1r receptor mutant 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):441.
Small-secreted peptides are emerging as important components in cell-cell communication during basic developmental stages of plant cell growth and development. Plant peptide containing sulfated tyrosine 1 (PSY1) has been reported to promote cell expansion and differentiation in the elongation zone of roots. PSY1 action is dependent on a receptor PSY1R that triggers a signaling cascade leading to cell elongation. However little is known about cellular functions and the components involved in PSY1-based signaling cascade.
Differentially expressed genes were identified in a wild type plant line and in a psy1r receptor mutant line of Arabidopsis thaliana after treatment with PSY1. Seventy-seven genes were found to be responsive to the PSY1 peptide in wild type plants while 154 genes were responsive in the receptor mutant plants. PSY1 activates the transcripts of genes involved in cell wall modification. Gene enrichment analysis revealed that PSY1-responsive genes are involved in responses to stimuli, metabolic processes and biosynthetic processes. The significant enrichment terms of PSY1-responsive genes were higher in psy1r mutant plants compared to in wild type plants. Two parallel responses to PSY1 were identified, differing in their dependency on the PSY1R receptor. Promoter analysis of the differentially expressed genes identified a light regulatory motif in some of these.
PSY1-responsive genes are involved in cellular functions and stimuli responses suggesting a crosstalk between developmental cues and environmental stimuli. Possibly, two parallel responses to PSY1 exist. A motif involved in light regulation was identified in the promoter region of the differentially expressed genes. Reduced hypocotyl growth was observed in etiolated receptor mutant seedlings.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-441) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4070568  PMID: 24906416
Cellular functions; Gene enrichment analysis; Microarray; Signaling cascade; Small signaling peptides
21.  Pseudomonas syringae Exchangeable Effector Loci: Sequence Diversity in Representative Pathovars and Virulence Function in P. syringae pv. syringae B728a 
Journal of Bacteriology  2003;185(8):2592-2602.
Pseudomonas syringae is a plant pathogen whose pathogenicity and host specificity are thought to be determined by Hop/Avr effector proteins injected into plant cells by a type III secretion system. P. syringae pv. syringae B728a, which causes brown spot of bean, is a particularly well-studied strain. The type III secretion system in P. syringae is encoded by hrp (hypersensitive response and pathogenicity) and hrc (hrp conserved) genes, which are clustered in a pathogenicity island with a tripartite structure such that the hrp/hrc genes are flanked by a conserved effector locus and an exchangeable effector locus (EEL). The EELs of P. syringae pv. syringae B728a, P. syringae strain 61, and P. syringae pv. tomato DC3000 differ in size and effector gene composition; the EEL of P. syringae pv. syringae B728a is the largest and most complex. The three putative effector proteins encoded by the P. syringae pv. syringae B728a EEL—HopPsyC, HopPsyE, and HopPsyV—were demonstrated to be secreted in an Hrp-dependent manner in culture. Heterologous expression of hopPsyC, hopPsyE, and hopPsyV in P. syringae pv. tabaci induced the hypersensitive response in tobacco leaves, demonstrating avirulence activity in a nonhost plant. Deletion of the P. syringae pv. syringae B728a EEL strongly reduced virulence in host bean leaves. EELs from nine additional strains representing nine P. syringae pathovars were isolated and sequenced. Homologs of avrPphE (e.g., hopPsyE) and hopPsyA were particularly common. Comparative analyses of these effector genes and hrpK (which flanks the EEL) suggest that the EEL effector genes were acquired by horizontal transfer after the acquisition of the hrp/hrc gene cluster but before the divergence of modern pathovars and that some EELs underwent transpositions yielding effector exchanges or point mutations producing effector pseudogenes after their acquisition.
PMCID: PMC152607  PMID: 12670984
22.  Effects of silencing key genes in the capsanthin biosynthetic pathway on fruit color of detached pepper fruits 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:314.
There are many varieties of carotenoids in pepper fruits. Capsanthin is a red carotenoid that gives mature pepper fruits their red color. The red color in pepper fruits is regulated mainly by the genes capsanthin/capsorubin synthase(Ccs), phytoene synthase(Psy), lycopene-β-cyclase(Lcyb) and β-carotene hydroxylase(Crtz). There has been very limited research work related to the development and change in the red color during fruit formation and when a certain gene or several genes are deleted. In this paper, we constructed viral vectors, using the tobacco rattle virus (TRV), to carry the target gene to infect detached pepper fruits, and observed the fruits’ color change. We used real-time quantitative PCR to analyze the gene silencing efficiency. At the same time, HPLC was used to determine the content of capsanthin and carotenoids that are associated with capsanthin synthesis when key genes in the pepper fruits were silenced.
These genes (Ccs, Psy, Lcyb and Crtz) were individually silenced through virus induced gene silencing (VIGS) technology, and pepper fruits from red fruit cultivars showed an orange or yellow color. When several genes were silenced simultaneously, the fruit also did not show the normal red color. Gene expression analysis by real-time quantitative PCR showed 70-80% efficiency of target gene silencing when using the VIGS method. HPLC analysis showed that the contents of carotenoids associated with capsanthin synthesis (e.g. β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin or zeaxanthin) were decreased in varying degrees when silencing a gene or several genes together, however, the content of capsanthin reduced significantly. The synthesis of capsanthin was influenced either directly or indirectly when any key gene was silenced. The influence of the target genes on color changes in pepper fruits was confirmed via the targeted silencing of them.
VIGS was a good method to study the molecular mechanism of pepper fruit color formation. By using virus induced gene silencing technology, capsanthin synthesis genes in pepper fruits were silenced individually or simultaneously, and pepper fruit color changes were observed. This provides a platform to further explore the molecular mechanism of pepper fruit color formation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0314-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4245796  PMID: 25403855
Tobacco rattle virus; VIGS; Detached fruit; Fruit color; Pepper (Capsicum annuum L.); Capsanthin
23.  Molecular characterization of carotenoid biosynthetic genes and carotenoid accumulation in Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi 
EXCLI Journal  2014;14:146-157.
Scutellaria baicalensis has a wide range of biological activities and has been considered as an important traditional drug in Asia and North America for centuries. A partial-length cDNA clone encoding phytoene synthase (SbPSY) and full-length cDNA clonesencoding phytoene desaturase (SbPDS), ξ-carotene desaturase (SbZDS), β-ring carotene hydroxylase (SbCHXB), and zeaxanthin epoxidase (SbZEP)were identifiedin S. baicalensis. Sequence analyses revealed that these proteins share high identity and conserved domains with their orthologous genes. SbPSY, SbPDS, SbZDS, SbCHXB, and SbZEP were constitutively expressed in the roots, stems, leaves, and flowers of S.baicalensis. SbPSY, SbPDS, and SbZDS were highly expressed in the stems, leaves, and flowers and showed low expression in the roots, where only trace amounts of carotenoids were detected. SbCHXB and SbZEP transcripts were expressed at relatively high levels in the roots, stems, and flowers and were expressed at low levels in the leaves, where carotenoids were mostly distributed. The predominant carotenoids in S.baicalensiswere lutein and β-carotene, with abundant amounts found in the leaves (517.19 and 228.37 μg g-1 dry weight, respectively). Our study on the biosynthesis of carotenoids in S. baicalensis will provide basic data for elucidating the contribution of carotenoids to the considerable medicinal properties of S. baicalensis.
PMCID: PMC4556017  PMID: 26417348
Carotenoids; gene characterization; lutein; Scutellaria baicalensis; ß-carotene
24.  Carotenoid Biosynthetic and Catabolic Pathways: Gene Expression and Carotenoid Content in Grains of Maize Landraces 
Nutrients  2014;6(2):546-563.
Plant carotenoids have been implicated in preventing several age-related diseases, and they also provide vitamin A precursors; therefore, increasing the content of carotenoids in maize grains is of great interest. It is not well understood, however, how the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway is regulated. Fortunately, the maize germplasm exhibits a high degree of genetic diversity that can be exploited for this purpose. Here, the accumulation of carotenoids and the expression of genes from carotenoid metabolic and catabolic pathways were investigated in several maize landraces. The carotenoid content in grains varied from 10.03, in the white variety MC5, to 61.50 μg·g−1, in the yellow-to-orange variety MC3, and the major carotenoids detected were lutein and zeaxanthin. PSY1 (phythoene synthase) expression showed a positive correlation with the total carotenoid content. Additionally, the PSY1 and HYD3 (ferredoxin-dependent di-iron monooxygenase) expression levels were positively correlated with β-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin, while CYP97C (cytochrome P450-type monooxygenase) expression did not correlate with any of the carotenoids. In contrast, ZmCCD1 (carotenoid dioxygenase) was more highly expressed at the beginning of grain development, as well as in the white variety, and its expression was inversely correlated with the accumulation of several carotenoids, suggesting that CCD1 is also an important enzyme to be considered when attempting to improve the carotenoid content in maize. The MC27 and MC1 varieties showed the highest HYD3/CYP97C ratios, suggesting that they are promising candidates for increasing the zeaxanthin content; in contrast, MC14 and MC7 showed low HYD3/CYP97C, suggesting that they may be useful in biofortification efforts aimed at promoting the accumulation of provitamin A. The results of this study demonstrate the use of maize germplasm to provide insight into the regulation of genes involved in the carotenoid pathway, which would thus better enable us to select promising varieties for biofortification efforts.
PMCID: PMC3942716  PMID: 24476639
Zea mays L.; landrace varieties; carotenoids; carotenoid-related genes; carotenoid cleavage dioxygenases
25.  Variability of Carotenoid Biosynthesis in Orange Colored Capsicum spp. 
Pepper, Capsicum spp., is a worldwide crop valued for heat, nutrition, and rich pigment content. Carotenoids, the largest group of plant pigments, function as antioxidants and as vitamin A precursors. The most abundant carotenoids in ripe pepper fruits are β-carotene, capsanthin, and capsorubin. In this study, the carotenoid composition of orange fruited Capsicum lines was defined along with the allelic variability of the biosynthetic enzymes. The carotenoid chemical profiles present in seven orange pepper varieties were determined using a novel UPLC method. The orange appearance of the fruit was due either to the accumulation of β-carotene, or in two cases, due to only the accumulation of red and yellow carotenoids. Four carotenoid biosynthetic genes, Psy, Lcyb, CrtZ-2, and Ccs were cloned and sequenced from these cultivars. This data tested the hypothesis that different alleles for specific carotenoid biosynthetic enzymes are associated with specific carotenoid profiles in orange peppers. While the coding regions within Psy and CrtZ-2 did not change in any of the lines, the genomic sequence contained introns not previously reported. Lcyb and Ccs contained no introns but did exhibit polymorphisms resulting in amino acid changes; a new Ccs variant was found. When selectively breeding for high provitamin A levels, phenotypic recurrent selection based on fruit color is not sufficient, carotenoid chemical composition should also be conducted. Based on these results, specific alleles are candidate molecular markers for selection of orange pepper lines with high β-carotene and therefore high pro-vitamin A levels.
PMCID: PMC2889374  PMID: 20582146
fruit pigmentation; carotenes; xanthophylls; capsanthin; capsorubin

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