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1.  A quadruple mutant of Arabidopsis reveals a β-carotene hydroxylation activity for LUT1/CYP97C1 and a regulatory role of xanthophylls on determination of the PSI/PSII ratio 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:50.
Xanthophylls are oxygenated carotenoids playing an essential role as structural components of the photosynthetic apparatus. Xanthophylls contribute to the assembly and stability of light-harvesting complex, to light absorbance and to photoprotection. The first step in xanthophyll biosynthesis from α- and β-carotene is the hydroxylation of ε- and β-rings, performed by both non-heme iron oxygenases (CHY1, CHY2) and P450 cytochromes (LUT1/CYP97C1, LUT5/CYP97A3). The Arabidopsis triple chy1chy2lut5 mutant is almost completely depleted in β-xanthophylls.
Here we report on the quadruple chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant, additionally carrying the lut2 mutation (affecting lycopene ε-cyclase). This genotype lacks lutein and yet it shows a compensatory increase in β-xanthophylls with respect to chy1chy2lut5 mutant. Mutant plants show an even stronger photosensitivity than chy1chy2lut5, a complete lack of qE, the rapidly reversible component of non-photochemical quenching, and a peculiar organization of the pigment binding complexes into thylakoids. Biochemical analysis reveals that the chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant is depleted in Lhcb subunits and is specifically affected in Photosystem I function, showing a deficiency in PSI-LHCI supercomplexes. Moreover, by analyzing a series of single, double, triple and quadruple Arabidopsis mutants in xanthophyll biosynthesis, we show a hitherto undescribed correlation between xanthophyll levels and the PSI-PSII ratio. The decrease in the xanthophyll/carotenoid ratio causes a proportional decrease in the LHCII and PSI core levels with respect to PSII.
The physiological and biochemical phenotype of the chy1chy2lut2lut5 mutant shows that (i) LUT1/CYP97C1 protein reveals a major β-carotene hydroxylase activity in vivo when depleted in its preferred substrate α-carotene; (ii) xanthophylls are needed for normal level of Photosystem I and LHCII accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3349566  PMID: 22513258
2.  Study of 'Redhaven' peach and its white-fleshed mutant suggests a key role of CCD4 carotenoid dioxygenase in carotenoid and norisoprenoid volatile metabolism 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:24.
Carotenoids are plant metabolites which are not only essential in photosynthesis but also important quality factors in determining the pigmentation and aroma of flowers and fruits. To investigate the regulation of carotenoid metabolism, as related to norisoprenoids and other volatile compounds in peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch.), and the role of carotenoid dioxygenases in determining differences in flesh color phenotype and volatile composition, the expression patterns of relevant carotenoid genes and metabolites were studied during fruit development along with volatile compound content. Two contrasted cultivars, the yellow-fleshed 'Redhaven' (RH) and its white-fleshed mutant 'Redhaven Bianca' (RHB) were examined.
The two genotypes displayed marked differences in the accumulation of carotenoid pigments in mesocarp tissues. Lower carotenoid levels and higher levels of norisoprenoid volatiles were observed in RHB, which might be explained by differential activity of carotenoid cleavage dioxygenase (CCD) enzymes. In fact, the ccd4 transcript levels were dramatically higher at late ripening stages in RHB with respect to RH. The two genotypes also showed differences in the expression patterns of several carotenoid and isoprenoid transcripts, compatible with a feed-back regulation of these transcripts. Abamine SG - an inhibitor of CCD enzymes - decreased the levels of both isoprenoid and non-isoprenoid volatiles in RHB fruits, indicating a complex regulation of volatile production.
Differential expression of ccd4 is likely to be the major determinant in the accumulation of carotenoids and carotenoid-derived volatiles in peach fruit flesh. More in general, dioxygenases appear to be key factors controlling volatile composition in peach fruit, since abamine SG-treated 'Redhaven Bianca' fruits had strongly reduced levels of norisoprenoids and other volatile classes. Comparative functional studies of peach carotenoid cleavage enzymes are required to fully elucidate their role in peach fruit pigmentation and aroma.
PMCID: PMC3045293  PMID: 21269483
3.  Nickel and low CO2-controlled motility in Chlamydomonas through complementation of a paralyzed flagella mutant with chemically regulated promoters 
BMC Plant Biology  2011;11:22.
Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a model system for the biology of unicellular green algae. Chemically regulated promoters, such as the nickel-inducible CYC6 or the low CO2-inducible CAH1 promoter, may prove useful for expressing, at precise times during its cell cycle, proteins with relevant biological functions, or complementing mutants in genes encoding such proteins. To this date, this has not been reported for the above promoters.
We fused the CYC6 and CAH1 promoters to an HA-tagged RSP3 gene, encoding a protein of the flagellar radial spoke complex. The constructs were used for chemically regulated complementation of the pf14 mutant, carrying an ochre mutation in the RSP3 gene. 7 to 8% of the transformants showed cells with restored motility after induction with nickel or transfer to low CO2 conditions, but not in non-inducing conditions. Maximum complementation (5% motile cells) was reached with very different kinetics (5-6 hours for CAH1, 48 hours for CYC6). The two inducible promoters drive much lower levels of RSP3 protein expression than the constitutive PSAD promoter, which shows almost complete rescue of motility.
To our knowledge, this is the first example of the use of the CYC6 or CAH1 promoters to perform a chemically regulated complementation of a Chlamydomonas mutant. Based on our data, the CYC6 and CAH1 promoters should be capable of fully complementing mutants in genes whose products exert their biological activity at low concentrations.
PMCID: PMC3038898  PMID: 21266063
4.  An EST database from saffron stigmas 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:53.
Saffron (Crocus sativus L., Iridaceae) flowers have been used as a spice and medicinal plant ever since the Greek-Minoan civilization. The edible part – the stigmas – are commonly considered the most expensive spice in the world and are the site of a peculiar secondary metabolism, responsible for the characteristic color and flavor of saffron.
We produced 6,603 high quality Expressed Sequence Tags (ESTs) from a saffron stigma cDNA library. This collection is accessible and searchable through the Saffron Genes database The ESTs have been grouped into 1,893 Clusters, each corresponding to a different expressed gene, and annotated. The complete set of raw EST sequences, as well as of their electopherograms, are maintained in the database, allowing users to investigate sequence qualities and EST structural features (vector contamination, repeat regions). The saffron stigma transcriptome contains a series of interesting sequences (putative sex determination genes, lipid and carotenoid metabolism enzymes, transcription factors).
The Saffron Genes database represents the first reference collection for the genomics of Iridaceae, for the molecular biology of stigma biogenesis, as well as for the metabolic pathways underlying saffron secondary metabolism.
PMCID: PMC2221943  PMID: 17925031
5.  Silencing of beta-carotene hydroxylase increases total carotenoid and beta-carotene levels in potato tubers 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:11.
Beta-carotene is the main dietary precursor of vitamin A. Potato tubers contain low levels of carotenoids, composed mainly of the xanthophylls lutein (in the beta-epsilon branch) and violaxanthin (in the beta-beta branch). None of these carotenoids have provitamin A activity. We have previously shown that tuber-specific silencing of the first step in the epsilon-beta branch, LCY-e, redirects metabolic flux towards beta-beta carotenoids, increases total carotenoids up to 2.5-fold and beta-carotene up to 14-fold.
In this work, we silenced the non-heme beta-carotene hydroxylases CHY1 and CHY2 in the tuber. Real Time RT-PCR measurements confirmed the tuber-specific silencing of both genes . CHY silenced tubers showed more dramatic changes in carotenoid content than LCY-e silenced tubers, with beta-carotene increasing up to 38-fold and total carotenoids up to 4.5-fold. These changes were accompanied by a decrease in the immediate product of beta-carotene hydroxylation, zeaxanthin, but not of the downstream xanthophylls, viola- and neoxanthin. Changes in endogenous gene expression were extensive and partially overlapping with those of LCY-e silenced tubers: CrtISO, LCY-b and ZEP were induced in both cases, indicating that they may respond to the balance between individual carotenoid species.
Together with epsilon-cyclization of lycopene, beta-carotene hydroxylation is another regulatory step in potato tuber carotenogenesis. The data are consistent with a prevalent role of CHY2, which is highly expressed in tubers, in the control of this step. Combination of different engineering strategies holds good promise for the manipulation of tuber carotenoid content.
PMCID: PMC1828156  PMID: 17335571
6.  Lutein is needed for efficient chlorophyll triplet quenching in the major LHCII antenna complex of higher plants and effective photoprotection in vivo under strong light 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:32.
Lutein is the most abundant xanthophyll in the photosynthetic apparatus of higher plants. It binds to site L1 of all Lhc proteins, whose occupancy is indispensable for protein folding and quenching chlorophyll triplets. Thus, the lack of a visible phenotype in mutants lacking lutein has been surprising.
We have re-assessed the lut2.1 phenotypes through biochemical and spectroscopic methods. Lhc proteins from the lut2.1 mutant compensate the lack of lutein by binding violaxanthin in sites L1 and L2. This substitution reduces the capacity for regulatory mechanisms such as NPQ, reduces antenna size, induces the compensatory synthesis of Antheraxanthin + Zeaxanthin, and prevents the trimerization of LHCII complexes. In vitro reconstitution shows that the lack of lutein per se is sufficient to prevent trimerization. lut2.1 showed a reduced capacity for state I – state II transitions, a selective degradation of Lhcb1 and 2, and a higher level of photodamage in high light and/or low temperature, suggesting that violaxanthin cannot fully restore chlorophyll triplet quenching. In vitro photobleaching experiments and time-resolved spectroscopy of carotenoid triplet formation confirmed this hypothesis. The npq1lut2.1 double mutant, lacking both zeaxanthin and lutein, is highly susceptible to light stress.
Lutein has the specific property of quenching harmful 3Chl* by binding at site L1 of the major LHCII complex and of other Lhc proteins of plants, thus preventing ROS formation. Substitution of lutein by violaxanthin decreases the efficiency of 3Chl* quenching and causes higher ROS yield. The phenotype of lut2.1 mutant in low light is weak only because rescuing mechanisms of photoprotection, namely zeaxanthin synthesis, compensate for the ROS production. We conclude that zeaxanthin is effective in photoprotection of plants lacking lutein due to the multiple effects of zeaxanthin in photoprotection, including ROS scavenging and direct quenching of Chl fluorescence by binding to the L2 allosteric site of Lhc proteins.
PMCID: PMC1769499  PMID: 17192177
7.  Metabolic engineering of potato tuber carotenoids through tuber-specific silencing of lycopene epsilon cyclase 
BMC Plant Biology  2006;6:13.
Potato is a major staple food, and modification of its provitamin content is a possible means for alleviating nutritional deficiencies. beta-carotene is the main dietary precursor of vitamin A. Potato tubers contain low levels of carotenoids, composed mainly of the xanthophylls lutein, antheraxanthin, violaxanthin, and of xanthophyll esters. None of these carotenoids have provitamin A activity.
We silenced the first dedicated step in the beta-epsilon- branch of carotenoid biosynthesis, lycopene epsilon cyclase (LCY-e), by introducing, via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation, an antisense fragment of this gene under the control of the patatin promoter. Real Time measurements confirmed the tuber-specific silencing of Lcy-e. Antisense tubers showed significant increases in beta-beta-carotenoid levels, with beta-carotene showing the maximum increase (up to 14-fold). Total carotenoids increased up to 2.5-fold. These changes were not accompanied by a decrease in lutein, suggesting that LCY-e is not rate-limiting for lutein accumulation. Tuber-specific changes in expression of several genes in the pathway were observed.
The data suggest that epsilon-cyclization of lycopene is a key regulatory step in potato tuber carotenogenesis. Upon tuber-specific silencing of the corresponding gene, beta-beta-carotenoid and total carotenoid levels are increased, and expression of several other genes in the pathway is modified.
PMCID: PMC1570464  PMID: 16800876

Results 1-7 (7)