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1.  Valuable Nutrients and Functional Bioactives in Different Parts of Olive (Olea europaea L.)—A Review 
The Olive tree (Olea europaea L.), a native of the Mediterranean basin and parts of Asia, is now widely cultivated in many other parts of the world for production of olive oil and table olives. Olive is a rich source of valuable nutrients and bioactives of medicinal and therapeutic interest. Olive fruit contains appreciable concentration, 1–3% of fresh pulp weight, of hydrophilic (phenolic acids, phenolic alchohols, flavonoids and secoiridoids) and lipophilic (cresols) phenolic compounds that are known to possess multiple biological activities such as antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, antihypertensive, antidyslipidemic, cardiotonic, laxative, and antiplatelet. Other important compounds present in olive fruit are pectin, organic acids, and pigments. Virgin olive oil (VOO), extracted mechanically from the fruit, is also very popular for its nutritive and health-promoting potential, especially against cardiovascular disorders due to the presence of high levels of monounsaturates and other valuable minor components such as phenolics, phytosterols, tocopherols, carotenoids, chlorophyll and squalene. The cultivar, area of production, harvest time, and the processing techniques employed are some of the factors shown to influence the composition of olive fruit and olive oil. This review focuses comprehensively on the nutrients and high-value bioactives profile as well as medicinal and functional aspects of different parts of olives and its byproducts. Various factors affecting the composition of this food commodity of medicinal value are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC3317714  PMID: 22489153
Mediterranean diet; high-value components; bioactives; phytochemicals; virgin olive oil; medicinal uses; therapeutic potential
2.  Proteome Regulation during Olea europaea Fruit Development 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53563.
Widespread in the Mediterranean basin, Olea europaea trees are gaining worldwide popularity for the nutritional and cancer-protective properties of the oil, mechanically extracted from ripe fruits. Fruit development is a physiological process with remarkable impact on the modulation of the biosynthesis of compounds affecting the quality of the drupes as well as the final composition of the olive oil. Proteomics offers the possibility to dig deeper into the major changes during fruit development, including the important phase of ripening, and to classify temporal patterns of protein accumulation occurring during these complex physiological processes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this work, we started monitoring the proteome variations associated with olive fruit development by using comparative proteomics coupled to mass spectrometry. Proteins extracted from drupes at three different developmental stages were separated on 2-DE and subjected to image analysis. 247 protein spots were revealed as differentially accumulated. Proteins were identified from a total of 121 spots and discussed in relation to olive drupe metabolic changes occurring during fruit development. In order to evaluate if changes observed at the protein level were consistent with changes of mRNAs, proteomic data produced in the present work were compared with transcriptomic data elaborated during previous studies.
This study identifies a number of proteins responsible for quality traits of cv. Coratina, with particular regard to proteins associated to the metabolism of fatty acids, phenolic and aroma compounds. Proteins involved in fruit photosynthesis have been also identified and their pivotal contribution in oleogenesis has been discussed. To date, this study represents the first characterization of the olive fruit proteome during development, providing new insights into fruit metabolism and oil accumulation process.
PMCID: PMC3547947  PMID: 23349718
3.  Comparative 454 pyrosequencing of transcripts from two olive genotypes during fruit development 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:399.
Despite its primary economic importance, genomic information on olive tree is still lacking. 454 pyrosequencing was used to enrich the very few sequence data currently available for the Olea europaea species and to identify genes involved in expression of fruit quality traits.
Fruits of Coratina, a widely cultivated variety characterized by a very high phenolic content, and Tendellone, an oleuropein-lacking natural variant, were used as starting material for monitoring the transcriptome. Four different cDNA libraries were sequenced, respectively at the beginning and at the end of drupe development. A total of 261,485 reads were obtained, for an output of about 58 Mb. Raw sequence data were processed using a four step pipeline procedure and data were stored in a relational database with a web interface.
Massively parallel sequencing of different fruit cDNA collections has provided large scale information about the structure and putative function of gene transcripts accumulated during fruit development. Comparative transcript profiling allowed the identification of differentially expressed genes with potential relevance in regulating the fruit metabolism and phenolic content during ripening.
PMCID: PMC2748093  PMID: 19709400
4.  Variability of Virgin Olive Oil Phenolic Compounds in a Segregating Progeny from a Single Cross in Olea europaea L. and Sensory and Nutritional Quality Implications 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e92898.
Virgin olive oil phenolic compounds are responsible for its nutritional and sensory quality. The synthesis of phenolic compounds occurs when enzymes and substrates meet as olive fruit is crushed during the industrial process to obtain the oil. The genetic variability of the major phenolic compounds of virgin olive oil was studied in a progeny of the cross of Picual x Arbequina olive cultivars (Olea europaea L.). They belong to four different groups: compounds that included tyrosol or hydroxytyrosol in their molecules, lignans, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Data of phenolics in the oils showed that the progeny displayed a large degree of variability, widely transgressing the genitor levels. This high variability can be of interest on breeding programs. Thus, multivariate analysis allowed to identify genotypes within the progeny particularly interesting in terms of phenolic composition and deduced organoleptic and nutritional quality. The present study has demonstrated that it is possible to obtain enough degree of variability with a single cross of olive cultivars for compounds related to the nutritional and organoleptic properties of virgin olive oil.
PMCID: PMC3961445  PMID: 24651694
5.  Gene expression changes in mononuclear cells in patients with metabolic syndrome after acute intake of phenol-rich virgin olive oil 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:253.
Previous studies have shown that acute intake of high-phenol virgin olive oil reduces pro-inflammatory, pro-oxidant and pro-thrombotic markers compared with low phenols virgin olive oil, but it still remains unclear whether effects attributed to its phenolic fraction are exerted at transcriptional level in vivo. To achieve this goal, we aimed at identifying expression changes in genes which could be mediated by virgin olive oil phenol compounds in the human.
Postprandial gene expression microarray analysis was performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells during postprandial period. Two virgin olive oil-based breakfasts with high (398 ppm) and low (70 ppm) content of phenolic compounds were administered to 20 patients suffering from metabolic syndrome following a double-blinded, randomized, crossover design. To eliminate the potential effect that might exist in their usual dietary habits, all subjects followed a similar low-fat, carbohydrate rich diet during the study period. Microarray analysis identified 98 differentially expressed genes (79 underexpressed and 19 overexpressed) when comparing the intake of phenol-rich olive oil with low-phenol olive oil. Many of these genes seem linked to obesity, dyslipemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Among these, several genes seem involved in inflammatory processes mediated by transcription factor NF-κB, activator protein-1 transcription factor complex AP-1, cytokines, mitogen-activated protein kinases MAPKs or arachidonic acid pathways.
This study shows that intake of virgin olive oil based breakfast, which is rich in phenol compounds is able to repress in vivo expression of several pro-inflammatory genes, thereby switching activity of peripheral blood mononuclear cells to a less deleterious inflammatory profile. These results provide at least a partial molecular basis for reduced risk of cardiovascular disease observed in Mediterranean countries, where virgin olive oil represents a main source of dietary fat. Admittedly, other lifestyle factors are also likely to contribute to lowered risk of cardiovascular disease in this region.
PMCID: PMC2874810  PMID: 20406432
6.  Computational annotation of genes differentially expressed along olive fruit development 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:128.
Olea europaea L. is a traditional tree crop of the Mediterranean basin with a worldwide economical high impact. Differently from other fruit tree species, little is known about the physiological and molecular basis of the olive fruit development and a few sequences of genes and gene products are available for olive in public databases. This study deals with the identification of large sets of differentially expressed genes in developing olive fruits and the subsequent computational annotation by means of different software.
mRNA from fruits of the cv. Leccino sampled at three different stages [i.e., initial fruit set (stage 1), completed pit hardening (stage 2) and veraison (stage 3)] was used for the identification of differentially expressed genes putatively involved in main processes along fruit development. Four subtractive hybridization libraries were constructed: forward and reverse between stage 1 and 2 (libraries A and B), and 2 and 3 (libraries C and D). All sequenced clones (1,132 in total) were analyzed through BlastX against non-redundant NCBI databases and about 60% of them showed similarity to known proteins. A total of 89 out of 642 differentially expressed unique sequences was further investigated by Real-Time PCR, showing a validation of the SSH results as high as 69%. Library-specific cDNA repertories were annotated according to the three main vocabularies of the gene ontology (GO): cellular component, biological process and molecular function. BlastX analysis, GO terms mapping and annotation analysis were performed using the Blast2GO software, a research tool designed with the main purpose of enabling GO based data mining on sequence sets for which no GO annotation is yet available. Bioinformatic analysis pointed out a significantly different distribution of the annotated sequences for each GO category, when comparing the three fruit developmental stages. The olive fruit-specific transcriptome dataset was used to query all known KEGG (Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Genes and Genomes) metabolic pathways for characterizing and positioning retrieved EST records. The integration of the olive sequence datasets within the MapMan platform for microarray analysis allowed the identification of specific biosynthetic pathways useful for the definition of key functional categories in time course analyses for gene groups.
The bioinformatic annotation of all gene sequences was useful to shed light on metabolic pathways and transcriptional aspects related to carbohydrates, fatty acids, secondary metabolites, transcription factors and hormones as well as response to biotic and abiotic stresses throughout olive drupe development. These results represent a first step toward both functional genomics and systems biology research for understanding the gene functions and regulatory networks in olive fruit growth and ripening.
PMCID: PMC2774695  PMID: 19852839
7.  Validation of reference genes for gene expression analysis in olive (Olea europaea) mesocarp tissue by quantitative real-time RT-PCR 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7:304.
Gene expression analysis using quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) is a robust method wherein the expression levels of target genes are normalised using internal control genes, known as reference genes, to derive changes in gene expression levels. Although reference genes have recently been suggested for olive tissues, combined/independent analysis on different cultivars has not yet been tested. Therefore, an assessment of reference genes was required to validate the recent findings and select stably expressed genes across different olive cultivars.
A total of eight candidate reference genes [glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), serine/threonine-protein phosphatase catalytic subunit (PP2A), elongation factor 1 alpha (EF1-alpha), polyubiquitin (OUB2), aquaporin tonoplast intrinsic protein (TIP2), tubulin alpha (TUBA), 60S ribosomal protein L18-3 (60S RBP L18-3) and polypyrimidine tract-binding protein homolog 3 (PTB)] were chosen based on their stability in olive tissues as well as in other plants. Expression stability was examined by qRT-PCR across 12 biological samples, representing mesocarp tissues at various developmental stages in three different olive cultivars, Barnea, Frantoio and Picual, independently and together during the 2009 season with two software programs, GeNorm and BestKeeper. Both software packages identified GAPDH, EF1-alpha and PP2A as the three most stable reference genes across the three cultivars and in the cultivar, Barnea. GAPDH, EF1-alpha and 60S RBP L18-3 were found to be most stable reference genes in the cultivar Frantoio while 60S RBP L18-3, OUB2 and PP2A were found to be most stable reference genes in the cultivar Picual.
The analyses of expression stability of reference genes using qRT-PCR revealed that GAPDH, EF1-alpha, PP2A, 60S RBP L18-3 and OUB2 are suitable reference genes for expression analysis in developing Olea europaea mesocarp tissues, displaying the highest level of expression stability across three different olive cultivars, Barnea, Frantoio and Picual, however the combination of the three most stable reference genes do vary amongst individual cultivars. This study will provide guidance to other researchers to select reference genes for normalization against target genes by qPCR across tissues obtained from the mesocarp region of the olive fruit in the cultivars, Barnea, Frantoio and Picual.
PMCID: PMC4062307  PMID: 24884716
Reference genes; qRT-PCR; Olea europaea; Gene expression
8.  Phenolic Secoiridoids in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Impede Fibrogenic and Oncogenic Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition: Extra Virgin Olive Oil As a Source of Novel Antiaging Phytochemicals 
Rejuvenation Research  2012;15(1):3-21.
The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) genetic program is a molecular convergence point in the life-threatening progression of organ fibrosis and cancer toward organ failure and metastasis, respectively. Here, we employed the EMT process as a functional screen for testing crude natural extracts for accelerated drug development in fibrosis and cancer. Because extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) (i.e., the juice derived from the first cold pressing of the olives without any further refining process) naturally contains high levels of phenolic compounds associated with the health benefits derived from consuming an EVOO-rich Mediterranean diet, we have tested the ability of an EVOO-derived crude phenolic extract to regulate fibrogenic and oncogenic EMT in vitro. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry assays revealed that the EVOO phenolic extract was mainly composed (∼70%) of two members of the secoiridoid family of complex polyphenols, namely oleuropein aglycone—the bitter principle of olives—and its derivative decarboxymethyl oleuropein aglycone. EVOO secoiridoids efficiently prevented loss of proteins associated with polarized epithelial phenotype (i.e., E-cadherin) as well as de novo synthesis of proteins associated with mesenchymal migratory morphology of transitioning cells (i.e., vimentin). The ability of EVOO to impede transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)–induced disintegration of E-cadherin-mediated cell–cell contacts apparently occurred as a consequence of the ability of EVOO phenolics to prevent the upregulation of SMAD4—a critical mediator of TGF-β signaling—and of the SMAD transcriptional cofactor SNAIL2 (Slug)—a well-recognized epithelial repressor. Indeed, EVOO phenolics efficiently prevented crucial TGF-β–induced EMT transcriptional events, including upregulation of SNAI2, TCF4, VIM (Vimentin), FN (fibronectin), and SERPINE1 genes. While awaiting a better mechanistic understanding of how EVOO phenolics molecularly shut down the EMT differentiation process, it seems reasonable to suggest that nontoxic Oleaceae secoiridoids certainly merit to be considered for aging studies and, perhaps, for ulterior design of more pharmacologically active second-generation anti-EMT molecules.
PMCID: PMC3283896  PMID: 22229524
9.  Comparative transcriptional profiling analysis of olive ripe-fruit pericarp and abscission zone tissues shows expression differences and distinct patterns of transcriptional regulation 
BMC Genomics  2013;14(1):866.
In fleshy fruit, abscission of fully ripe fruit is a process intimately linked to the ripening process. In many fruit-tree species, such as olive (Olea europaea L. cv. Picual), there is a coupling of the full ripening and the activation of the abscission-zone (AZ). Although fully ripe fruit have marked physiological differences with respect to their AZs, dissimilarities in gene expression have not been thoroughly investigated. The present study examines the transcriptome of olive fruit and their AZ tissues at the last stage of ripening, monitored using mRNA-Seq.
Roche-454 massive parallel pyrosequencing enabled us to generate 397,457 high-quality EST sequences, among which 199,075 were from ripe-fruit pericarp and 198,382 from AZ tissues. We assembled these sequences into 19,062 contigs, grouped as 17,048 isotigs. Using the read amounts for each annotated isotig (from a total of 15,671), we identified 7,756 transcripts. A comparative analysis of the transcription profiles conducted in ripe-fruit pericarp and AZ evidenced that 4,391 genes were differentially expressed genes (DEGs) in fruit and AZ. Functional categorization of the DEGs revealed that AZ tissue has an apparently higher response to external stimuli than does that of ripe fruit, revealing a higher expression of auxin-signaling genes, as well as lignin catabolic and biosynthetic pathway, aromatic amino acid biosynthetic pathway, isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway, protein amino acid dephosphorylation, amino acid transport, and photosynthesis. By contrast, fruit-enriched transcripts are involved in ATP synthesis coupled proton transport, glycolysis, and cell-wall organization. Furthermore, over 150 transcripts encoding putative transcription-factors (TFs) were identified (37 fruit TFs and 113 AZ TFs), of which we randomly selected eight genes and we confirmed their expression patterns using quantitative RT-PCR.
We generated a set of EST sequences from olive fruit at full ripening, and DEGs between two different olive tissues, ripe fruit and their AZ, were also identified. Regarding the cross-talk between fruit and AZ, using qRT-PCR, we confirmed a set of TF genes that were differentially expressed, revealing profiles of expression that have not previously been reported, this offering a promising beginning for studies on the different transcription regulation in such tissues.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-866) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4046656  PMID: 24320622
Abscission; Gene expression; Olea europaea; 454 Pyrosequencing; Ripening; Transcriptomic comparative
10.  The molecular biology of the olive fly comes of age 
BMC Genetics  2014;15(Suppl 2):S8.
Olive cultivation blends with the history of the Mediterranean countries since ancient times. Even today, activities around the olive tree constitute major engagements of several people in the countryside of both sides of the Mediterranean basin. The olive fly is, beyond doubt, the most destructive pest of cultivated olives. The female fly leaves its eggs in the olive fruit. Upon emergence, the larvae feed on the olive sap, thus destroying the fruit. If untreated, practically all olives get infected. The use of chemical insecticides constitutes the principal olive fly control approach. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), an environmentally friendly alternative control method, had been tried in pilot field applications in the 1970's, albeit with no practical success. This was mainly attributed to the low, non-antagonistic quality of the mixed-sex released insects. Many years of experience from successful SIT applications in related species, primarily the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata, demonstrated that efficient SIT protocols require the availability of fundamental genetic and molecular information.
Among the primary systems whose understanding can contribute towards novel SIT approaches (or its recently developed alternative RIDL: Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal) is the reproductive, since the ability to manipulate the reproductive system would directly affect the insect's fertility. In addition, the analysis of early embryonic promoters and apoptotic genes would provide tools that confer dominant early-embryonic lethality during mass-rearing. Here we report the identification of several genes involved in these systems through whole transcriptome analysis of female accessory glands (FAGs) and spermathecae, as well as male testes. Indeed, analysis of differentially expressed genes in these tissues revealed higher metabolic activity in testes than in FAGs/spermathecae. Furthermore, at least five olfactory-related genes were shown to be differentially expressed in the female and male reproductive systems analyzed. Finally, the expression profile of the embryonic serendipity-α locus and the pre-apoptotic head involution defective gene were analyzed during embryonic developmental stages.
Several years of molecular studies on the olive fly can now be combined with new information from whole transcriptome analyses and lead to a deep understanding of the biology of this notorious insect pest. This is a prerequisite for the development of novel embryonic lethality female sexing strains for successful SIT efforts which, combined with improved mass-reared conditions, give new hope for efficient SIT applications for the olive fly.
PMCID: PMC4255830  PMID: 25472866
Tephritidae; Bactrocera oleae; sry-α; hid
11.  Centennial olive trees as a reservoir of genetic diversity 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(5):797-807.
Background and Aims
Genetic characterization and phylogenetic analysis of the oldest trees could be a powerful tool both for germplasm collection and for understanding the earliest origins of clonally propagated fruit crops. The olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is a suitable model to study the origin of cultivars due to its long lifespan, resulting in the existence of both centennial and millennial trees across the Mediterranean Basin.
The genetic identity and diversity as well as the phylogenetic relationships among the oldest wild and cultivated olives of southern Spain were evaluated by analysing simple sequence repeat markers. Samples from both the canopy and the roots of each tree were analysed to distinguish which trees were self-rooted and which were grafted. The ancient olives were also put into chronological order to infer the antiquity of traditional olive cultivars.
Key Results
Only 9·6 % out of 104 a priori cultivated ancient genotypes matched current olive cultivars. The percentage of unidentified genotypes was higher among the oldest olives, which could be because they belong to ancient unknown cultivars or because of possible intra-cultivar variability. Comparing the observed patterns of genetic variation made it possible to distinguish which trees were grafted onto putative wild olives.
This study of ancient olives has been fruitful both for germplasm collection and for enlarging our knowledge about olive domestication. The findings suggest that grafting pre-existing wild olives with olive cultivars was linked to the beginnings of olive growing. Additionally, the low number of genotypes identified in current cultivars points out that the ancient olives from southern Spain constitute a priceless reservoir of genetic diversity.
PMCID: PMC3177672  PMID: 21852276
Olea europaea; wild olives; traditional cultivars; microsatellite markers; intracultivar variability; domestication; in situ conservation
12.  Nutrition Metabolism Plays an Important Role in the Alternate Bearing of the Olive Tree (Olea europaea L.) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e59876.
The olive tree (Olea europaea L.) is widely known for its strong tendency for alternate bearing, which severely affects the fruit yield from year to year. Microarray based gene expression analysis using RNA from olive samples (on-off years leaves and ripe-unripe fruits) are particularly useful to understand the molecular mechanisms influencing the periodicity in the olive tree. Thus, we carried out genome wide transcriptome analyses involving different organs and temporal stages of the olive tree using the NimbleGen Array containing 136,628 oligonucleotide probe sets. Cluster analyses of the genes showed that cDNAs originated from different organs could be sorted into separate groups. The nutritional control had a particularly remarkable impact on the alternate bearing of olive, as shown by the differential expression of transcripts under different temporal phases and organs. Additionally, hormonal control and flowering processes also played important roles in this phenomenon. Our analyses provide further insights into the transcript changes between ”on year” and “off year” leaves along with the changes from unrpipe to ripe fruits, which shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the olive tree alternate bearing. These findings have important implications for the breeding and agriculture of the olive tree and other crops showing periodicity. To our knowledge, this is the first study reporting the development and use of an olive array to document the gene expression profiling associated with the alternate bearing in olive tree.
PMCID: PMC3610735  PMID: 23555820
13.  LOX Gene Transcript Accumulation in Olive (Olea europaea L.) Fruits at Different Stages of Maturation: Relationship between Volatile Compounds, Environmental Factors, and Technological Treatments for Oil Extraction 
The Scientific World Journal  2012;2012:532179.
The quality of olive oil is influenced by genetic and environmental factors and by the maturation state of drupes, but it is equally affected by technological treatments of the process. This work investigates the possible correlation between olive LOX gene transcript accumulation, evaluated in fruits collected at different stages of maturation, and chemical biomarkers of its activity. During olive fruit ripening, the same genotype harvested from two different farms shows a positive linear trend between LOX relative transcript accumulation and the content of volatile compounds present in the olive oil aroma. Interestingly, a negative linear trend was observed between LOX relative transcript accumulation and the content of volatile compounds present in the olive pastes obtained from olive fruits with and without malaxation. The changes in the olive LOX transcript accumulation reveal its environmental regulation and suggest differential physiological functions for the LOXs.
PMCID: PMC3353494  PMID: 22645430
14.  The mQTL hotspot on linkage group 16 for phenolic compounds in apple fruits is probably the result of a leucoanthocyanidin reductase gene at that locus 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:618.
Our previous study on ripe apples from a progeny of a cross between the apple cultivars ‘Prima’ and ‘Fiesta’ showed a hotspot of mQTLs for phenolic compounds at the top of LG16, both in peel and in flesh tissues. In order to find the underlying gene(s) of this mQTL hotspot, we investigated the expression profiles of structural and putative transcription factor genes of the phenylpropanoid and flavonoid pathways during different stages of fruit development in progeny genotypes.
Only the structural gene leucoanthocyanidin reductase (MdLAR1) showed a significant correlation between transcript abundance and content of metabolites that mapped on the mQTL hotspot. This gene is located on LG16 in the mQTL hotspot. Progeny that had inherited one or two copies of the dominant MdLAR1 alleles (Mm, MM) showed a 4.4- and 11.8-fold higher expression level of MdLAR1 respectively, compared to the progeny that had inherited the recessive alleles (mm). This higher expression was associated with a four-fold increase of procyanidin dimer II as one representative metabolite that mapped in the mQTL hotspot. Although expression level of several structural genes were correlated with expression of other structural genes and with some MYB and bHLH transcription factor genes, only expression of MdLAR1 was correlated with metabolites that mapped at the mQTL hotspot. MdLAR1 is the only candidate gene that can explain the mQTL for procyanidins and flavan-3-ols. However, mQTLs for other phenylpropanoids such as phenolic esters, dihydrochalcones and flavonols, that appear to map at the same locus, have so far not been considered to be dependent on LAR, as their biosynthesis does not involve LAR activity. An explanation for this phenomenon is discussed.
Transcript abundances and genomic positions indicate that the mQTL hotspot for phenolic compounds at the top of LG16 is controlled by the MdLAR1 gene. The dominant allele of the MdLAR1 gene, causing increased content of metabolites that are potentially health beneficial, could be used in marker assisted selection of current apple breeding programs and for cisgenesis.
PMCID: PMC3599437  PMID: 23121691
Phenylpropanoid pathway; Flavonoid pathway; Transcript abundance; Apple fruits; Phenolic compounds; Leucoanthocyanidin reductase gene
15.  Recovering Bioactive Compounds from Olive Oil Filter Cake by Advanced Extraction Techniques 
The potential of by-products generated during extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) filtration as a natural source of phenolic compounds (with demonstrated bioactivity) has been evaluated using pressurized liquid extraction (PLE) and considering mixtures of two GRAS (generally recognized as safe) solvents (ethanol and water) at temperatures ranging from 40 to 175 °C. The extracts were characterized by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) coupled to diode array detection (DAD) and electrospray time-of-flight mass spectrometry (HPLC-DAD-ESI-TOF/MS) to determine the phenolic-composition of the filter cake. The best isolation procedure to extract the phenolic fraction from the filter cake was accomplished using ethanol and water (50:50, v/v) at 120 °C. The main phenolic compounds identified in the samples were characterized as phenolic alcohols or derivatives (hydroxytyrosol and its oxidation product), secoiridoids (decarboxymethylated and hydroxylated forms of oleuropein and ligstroside aglycones), flavones (luteolin and apigenin) and elenolic acid derivatives. The PLE extraction process can be applied to produce enriched extracts with applications as bioactive food ingredients, as well as nutraceuticals.
PMCID: PMC4200768  PMID: 25226536
olive oil by-products; filter cake; phenolic compounds; pressurized liquid extraction; HPLC-ESI-TOF/MS; GRAS solvents
16.  Genome-wide identification of alternate bearing-associated microRNAs (miRNAs) in olive (Olea europaea L.) 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:10.
Alternate bearing is a widespread phenomenon among crop plants, defined as the tendency of certain fruit trees to produce a high-yield crop one year ("on-year"), followed by a low-yield or even no crop the following year ("off-year"). Several factors may affect the balance between such developmental phase-transition processes. Among them are the microRNA (miRNA), being gene-expression regulators that have been found to be involved as key determinants in several physiological processes.
Six olive (Olea europaea L. cv. Ayvalik variety) small RNA libraries were constructed from fruits (ripe and unripe) and leaves (”on year” and ”off year” leaves in July and in November, respectively) and sequenced by high-throughput Illumina sequencing. The RNA was retrotranscribed and sequenced using the high-throughput Illumina platform. Bioinformatics analyses of 93,526,915 reads identified 135 conserved miRNA, belonging to 22 miRNA families in the olive. In addition, 38 putative novel miRNAs were discovered in the datasets. Expression of olive tree miRNAs varied greatly among the six libraries, indicating the contribution of diverse miRNA in balancing between reproductive and vegetative phases. Predicted targets of miRNA were categorized into 108 process ontology groups with significance abundance. Among those, potential alternate bearing-associated processes were found, such as development, hormone-mediated signaling and organ morphogenesis. The KEGG analyses revealed that the miRNA-targeted genes are involved in seven main pathways, belonging to carbohydrate metabolism and hormone signal-transduction pathways.
A comprehensive study on olive miRNA related to alternate bearing was performed. Regulation of miRNA under different developmental phases and tissues indicated that control of nutrition and hormone, together with flowering processes had a noteworthy impact on the olive tree alternate bearing. Our results also provide significant data on the miRNA-fruit development interaction and advance perspectives in the miRNA profile of the olive tree.
PMCID: PMC3564680  PMID: 23320600
High-throughput small RNA sequencing; MicroRNA; Olive; Periodicity
17.  Effects of olive oil and its minor phenolic constituents on obesity-induced cardiac metabolic changes 
Nutrition Journal  2010;9:46.
Olive oil and its minor constituents have been recommended as important dietary therapeutic interventions in preventive medicine. However, a question remains to be addressed: what are the effects of olive oil and its phenolic compounds on obesity-induced cardiac metabolic changes?
Male Wistar rats were divided into two groups (n = 24/group): (C) receiving standard-chow; (Ob) receiving hypercaloric-chow. After 21 days C and Ob groups were divided into four subgroups (n = 6/group):(C) standard-chow and saline; (C-Olive)standard-chow and olive-oil (3.0 g/; (C-Oleuropein)standard-chow and oleuropein (0.023 mg/kg/day); (C-Cafeic) standard-chow and cafeic-acid (2.66 mg/kg/day); (Ob)receiving hypercaloric-chow and saline;(Ob-Olive) hypercaloric-chow and olive-oil;(Ob-Oleuropein) hypercaloric-chow and oleuropein;(Ob-Cafeic) hypercaloric-chow and cafeic-acid. Treatments were given twice a week during 21 days.
After 42 days, obesity was evidenced in Ob rats from enhanced body-weight, surface-area, and body-mass-index. Energy-expenditure, oxygen consumption(VO2) and fat-oxidation were lower in Ob-group than in C. Despite no morphometric changes, Ob-Olive, Ob-Oleuropein and Ob-Cafeic groups had higher VO2, fat-oxidation, myocardial beta-hydroxyacyl coenzyme-A dehydrogenase and lower respiratory-quotient than Ob. Citrate-synthase was highest in Ob-Olive group. Myocardial lipid-hydroperoxide(LH) and antioxidant enzymes were unaffected by olive-oil and its compounds in obesity condition, whereas LH was lower and total-antioxidant-substances were higher in C-Olive and C-Oleuropein than in C.
The present study demonstrated for the first time that olive-oil, oleuropein and cafeic-acid enhanced fat-oxidation and optimized cardiac energy metabolism in obesity conditions. Olive oil and its phenolic compounds improved myocardial oxidative stress in standard-fed conditions.
PMCID: PMC2967496  PMID: 20958965
18.  De Novo Assembly and Functional Annotation of the Olive (Olea europaea) Transcriptome 
Olive breeding programmes are focused on selecting for traits as short juvenile period, plant architecture suited for mechanical harvest, or oil characteristics, including fatty acid composition, phenolic, and volatile compounds to suit new markets. Understanding the molecular basis of these characteristics and improving the efficiency of such breeding programmes require the development of genomic information and tools. However, despite its economic relevance, genomic information on olive or closely related species is still scarce. We have applied Sanger and 454 pyrosequencing technologies to generate close to 2 million reads from 12 cDNA libraries obtained from the Picual, Arbequina, and Lechin de Sevilla cultivars and seedlings from a segregating progeny of a Picual × Arbequina cross. The libraries include fruit mesocarp and seeds at three relevant developmental stages, young stems and leaves, active juvenile and adult buds as well as dormant buds, and juvenile and adult roots. The reads were assembled by library or tissue and then assembled together into 81 020 unigenes with an average size of 496 bases. Here, we report their assembly and their functional annotation.
PMCID: PMC3576661  PMID: 23297299
Olea europaea; 454 pyrosequencing; genomics; Sanger sequencing; transcriptome
19.  Metabolite and transcript profiling of berry skin during fruit development elucidates differential regulation between Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz cultivars at branching points in the polyphenol pathway 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14:188.
Grapevine berries undergo complex biochemical changes during fruit maturation, many of which are dependent upon the variety and its environment. In order to elucidate the varietal dependent developmental regulation of primary and specialized metabolism, berry skins of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz were subjected to gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) based metabolite profiling from pre-veraison to harvest. The generated dataset was augmented with transcript profiling using RNAseq.
The analysis of the metabolite data revealed similar developmental patterns of change in primary metabolites between the two cultivars. Nevertheless, towards maturity the extent of change in the major organic acid and sugars (i.e. sucrose, trehalose, malate) and precursors of aromatic and phenolic compounds such as quinate and shikimate was greater in Shiraz compared to Cabernet Sauvignon. In contrast, distinct directional projections on the PCA plot of the two cultivars samples towards maturation when using the specialized metabolite profiles were apparent, suggesting a cultivar-dependent regulation of the specialized metabolism. Generally, Shiraz displayed greater upregulation of the entire polyphenol pathway and specifically higher accumulation of piceid and coumaroyl anthocyanin forms than Cabernet Sauvignon from veraison onwards. Transcript profiling revealed coordinated increased transcript abundance for genes encoding enzymes of committing steps in the phenylpropanoid pathway. The anthocyanin metabolite profile showed F3′5′H-mediated delphinidin-type anthocyanin enrichment in both varieties towards maturation, consistent with the transcript data, indicating that the F3′5′H-governed branching step dominates the anthocyanin profile at late berry development. Correlation analysis confirmed the tightly coordinated metabolic changes during development, and suggested a source-sink relation between the central and specialized metabolism, stronger in Shiraz than Cabernet Sauvignon. RNAseq analysis also revealed that the two cultivars exhibited distinct pattern of changes in genes related to abscisic acid (ABA) biosynthesis enzymes.
Compared with CS, Shiraz showed higher number of significant correlations between metabolites, which together with the relatively higher expression of flavonoid genes supports the evidence of increased accumulation of coumaroyl anthocyanins in that cultivar. Enhanced stress related metabolism, e.g. trehalose, stilbene and ABA in Shiraz berry-skin are consistent with its relatively higher susceptibility to environmental cues.
PMCID: PMC4222437  PMID: 25064275
Metabolite profiling; Grape berry metabolism; Grapevine; Transcript analysis; Metabolomics; GC-MS; LC-MS
20.  Physico-chemical and microbiological characterization of spontaneous fermentation of Cellina di Nardò and Leccino table olives 
Table olives are one of the most important traditional fermented vegetables in Europe and their world consumption is constantly increasing. In the Greek style, table olives are obtained by spontaneous fermentations, without any chemical debittering treatment. Evolution of sugars, organic acids, alcohols, mono, and polyphenol compounds and volatile compounds associated with the fermentative metabolism of yeasts and bacteria throughout the natural fermentation process of the two Italian olive cultivars Cellina di Nardò and Leccino were determined. A protocol was developed and applied aimed at the technological characterization of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and yeast strains as possible candidate autochthonous starters for table olive fermentation from Cellina di Nardò and Leccino cultivars. The study of the main physic-chemical parameters and volatile compounds during fermentation helped to determine chemical descriptors that may be suitable for monitoring olive fermentation. In both the analyzed table olive cultivars, aldehydes proved to be closely related to the first stage of fermentation (30 days), while higher alcohols (2-methyl-1-propanol; 3-methyl-1-butanol), styrene, and o-cymene were associated with the middle stage of fermentation (90 days) and acetate esters with the final step of olive fermentation (180 days).
PMCID: PMC4211558  PMID: 25389422
table olives; yeast; lactic acid bacteria; volatile compounds; fermented food
21.  Gene expression in developing watermelon fruit 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:275.
Cultivated watermelon form large fruits that are highly variable in size, shape, color, and content, yet have extremely narrow genetic diversity. Whereas a plethora of genes involved in cell wall metabolism, ethylene biosynthesis, fruit softening, and secondary metabolism during fruit development and ripening have been identified in other plant species, little is known of the genes involved in these processes in watermelon. A microarray and quantitative Real-Time PCR-based study was conducted in watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai var. lanatus] in order to elucidate the flow of events associated with fruit development and ripening in this species. RNA from three different maturation stages of watermelon fruits, as well as leaf, were collected from field grown plants during three consecutive years, and analyzed for gene expression using high-density photolithography microarrays and quantitative PCR.
High-density photolithography arrays, composed of probes of 832 EST-unigenes from a subtracted, fruit development, cDNA library of watermelon were utilized to examine gene expression at three distinct time-points in watermelon fruit development. Analysis was performed with field-grown fruits over three consecutive growing seasons. Microarray analysis identified three hundred and thirty-five unique ESTs that are differentially regulated by at least two-fold in watermelon fruits during the early, ripening, or mature stage when compared to leaf. Of the 335 ESTs identified, 211 share significant homology with known gene products and 96 had no significant matches with any database accession. Of the modulated watermelon ESTs related to annotated genes, a significant number were found to be associated with or involved in the vascular system, carotenoid biosynthesis, transcriptional regulation, pathogen and stress response, and ethylene biosynthesis. Ethylene bioassays, performed with a closely related watermelon genotype with a similar phenotype, i.e. seeded, bright red flesh, dark green rind, etc., determined that ethylene levels were highest during the green fruit stage followed by a decrease during the white and pink fruit stages. Additionally, quantitative Real-Time PCR was used to validate modulation of 127 ESTs that were differentially expressed in developing and ripening fruits based on array analysis.
This study identified numerous ESTs with putative involvement in the watermelon fruit developmental and ripening process, in particular the involvement of the vascular system and ethylene. The production of ethylene during fruit development in watermelon gives further support to the role of ethylene in fruit development in non-climacteric fruits.
PMCID: PMC2440768  PMID: 18534026
22.  Different Biosynthesis Patterns among Flavonoid 3-glycosides with Distinct Effects on Accumulation of Other Flavonoid Metabolites in Pears (Pyrus bretschneideri Rehd.) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91945.
Flavonoid biosynthesis profile was clarified by fruit bagging and re-exposure treatments in the green Chinese pear ‘Zaosu’ (Pyrus bretschneideri Rehd.) and its red mutant ‘Red Zaosu’. Two distinct biosynthesis patterns of flavonoid 3-glycosides were found in ‘Zaosu’ pear. By comparison with ‘Red Zaosu’, the biosynthesis of flavonoid 3-galactosides and flavonoid 3-arabinosides were inhibited by bagging and these compounds only re-accumulated to a small degree in the fruit peel of ‘Zaosu’ after the bags were removed. In contrast, the biosynthesis of flavonoid 3-gluctosides and flavonoid 3-rutinosides was reduced by bagging and then increased when the fruits were re-exposed to sunlight. A combination of correlation, multicollinearity test and partial-correlation analyses among major flavonoid metabolites indicated that biosynthesis of each phenolic compound was independent in ‘Zaosu’ pear, except for the positive correlation between flavonoid 3-rutincosides and flavanols. In contrast with the green pear cultivar, almost all phenolic compounds in the red mutant had similar biosynthesis patterns except for arbutin. However, only the biosynthesis of flavonoid 3-galactosides was relatively independent and strongly affected the synthesis of the other phenolic compounds. Therefore, we propose a hypothesis that the strong accumulation of flavonoid 3-galactosides stimulated the biosynthesis of other flavonoid compounds in the red mutant and, therefore, caused systemic variation of flavonoid biosynthesis profiles between ‘Zaosu’ and its red mutant. This hypothesis had been further demonstrated by the enzyme activity of UFGT, and transcript levels of flavonoid biosynthetic genes and been well tested by a stepwise linear regression forecasting model. The gene that encodes flavonoid 3-galacosyltransferase was also identified and isolated from the pear genome.
PMCID: PMC3956819  PMID: 24637788
23.  tabAnti-HER2 (erbB-2) oncogene effects of phenolic compounds directly isolated from commercial Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) 
BMC Cancer  2008;8:377.
The effects of the olive oil-rich Mediterranean diet on breast cancer risk might be underestimated when HER2 (ERBB2) oncogene-positive and HER2-negative breast carcinomas are considered together. We here investigated the anti-HER2 effects of phenolic fractions directly extracted from Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) in cultured human breast cancer cell lines.
Solid phase extraction followed by semi-preparative high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to isolate phenolic fractions from commercial EVOO. Analytical capillary electrophoresis coupled to mass spectrometry was performed to check for the composition and to confirm the identity of the isolated fractions. EVOO polyphenolic fractions were tested on their tumoricidal ability against HER2-negative and HER2-positive breast cancer in vitro models using MTT, crystal violet staining, and Cell Death ELISA assays. The effects of EVOO polyphenolic fractions on the expression and activation status of HER2 oncoprotein were evaluated using HER2-specific ELISAs and immunoblotting procedures, respectively.
Among the fractions mainly containing the single phenols hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, the polyphenol acid elenolic acid, the lignans (+)-pinoresinol and 1-(+)-acetoxypinoresinol, and the secoiridoids deacetoxy oleuropein aglycone, ligstroside aglycone, and oleuropein aglycone, all the major EVOO polyphenols (i.e. secoiridoids and lignans) were found to induce strong tumoricidal effects within a micromolar range by selectively triggering high levels of apoptotic cell death in HER2-overexpressors. Small interfering RNA-induced depletion of HER2 protein and lapatinib-induced blockade of HER2 tyrosine kinase activity both significantly prevented EVOO polyphenols-induced cytotoxicity. EVOO polyphenols drastically depleted HER2 protein and reduced HER2 tyrosine autophosphorylation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. EVOO polyphenols-induced HER2 downregulation occurred regardless the molecular mechanism contributing to HER2 overexpression (i.e. naturally by gene amplification and ectopically driven by a viral promoter). Pre-treatment with the proteasome inhibitor MG132 prevented EVOO polyphenols-induced HER2 depletion.
The ability of EVOO-derived polyphenols to inhibit HER2 activity by promoting the proteasomal degradation of the HER2 protein itself, together with the fact that humans have safely been ingesting secoiridoids and lignans as long as they have been consuming olives and OO, support the notion that the stereochemistry of these phytochemicals might provide an excellent and safe platform for the design of new HER2-targeting agents.
PMCID: PMC2626601  PMID: 19094209
24.  Molecular interactions between the olive and the fruit fly Bactrocera oleae 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:86.
The fruit fly Bactrocera oleae is the primary biotic stressor of cultivated olives, causing direct and indirect damages that significantly reduce both the yield and the quality of olive oil. To study the olive-B. oleae interaction, we conducted transcriptomic and proteomic investigations of the molecular response of the drupe. The identifications of genes and proteins involved in the fruit response were performed using a Suppression Subtractive Hybridisation technique and a combined bi-dimensional electrophoresis/nanoLC-ESI-LIT-MS/MS approach, respectively.
We identified 196 ESTs and 26 protein spots as differentially expressed in olives with larval feeding tunnels. A bioinformatic analysis of the identified non-redundant EST and protein collection indicated that different molecular processes were affected, such as stress response, phytohormone signalling, transcriptional control and primary metabolism, and that a considerable proportion of the ESTs could not be classified. The altered expression of 20 transcripts was also analysed by real-time PCR, and the most striking differences were further confirmed in the fruit of a different olive variety. We also cloned the full-length coding sequences of two genes, Oe-chitinase I and Oe-PR27, and showed that these are wound-inducible genes and activated by B. oleae punctures.
This study represents the first report that reveals the molecular players and signalling pathways involved in the interaction between the olive fruit and its most damaging biotic stressor. Drupe response is complex, involving genes and proteins involved in photosynthesis as well as in the production of ROS, the activation of different stress response pathways and the production of compounds involved in direct defence against phytophagous larvae. Among the latter, trypsin inhibitors should play a major role in drupe resistance reaction.
PMCID: PMC3733423  PMID: 22694925
Olea europea; Pest; SSH; Proteomics; Defence; Fruit fly
25.  Regulation of two germin-like protein genes during plum fruit development 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2010;61(6):1761-1770.
Germin-like proteins (GLPs) have several proposed roles in plant development and defence. Two novel genes (Ps-GLP1 and 2) encoding germin-like protein were isolated from plum (Prunus salicina). Their regulation was studied throughout fruit development and during ripening of early and late cultivars. These two genes exhibited similar expression patterns throughout the various stages of fruit development excluding two important stages, pit hardening (S2) and fruit ripening (S4). During fruit development until the ripening phase, the accumulation of both Ps-GLPs is related to the evolution of auxin. However, during the S2 stage only Ps-GLP1 is induced and this could putatively be in a H2O2-dependent manner. On the other hand, the diversity in the Ps-GLPs accumulation profile during the ripening process seems to be putatively due to the variability of endogenous auxin levels among the two plum cultivars, which consequently change the levels of autocatalytic ethylene available for the fruit to co-ordinate ripening. The effect of auxin on stimulating ethylene production and in regulating Ps-GLPs transcripts was also investigated. These data, supported by their localization in the extracellular matrix, suggest that auxin is somehow involved in the regulation of both transcripts throughout fruit development and ripening.
PMCID: PMC2852666  PMID: 20202999
Auxin; ethylene; expression profile; flowering; germin-like protein; plum fruit development and ripening; subcellular localization

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