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Keywords:

  • flavonol glycosides;
  • fluorescence microscopy;
  • glandular trichomes;
  • Oleaceae;
  • phenylpropanoids

Experiments were conducted on Phillyrea latifolia plants grown under a dense overstorey of Pinus pinea (shade plants) or on seashore dunes (sun plants) in a coastal area of Tuscany (42° 46′ N, 10° 53′ E). Total integrated photon flux densities averaged 1.67 and 61.4 m mol m−2 d−1 for shade and sun sites, respectively. A leaf morphological–structural analysis, a qualitative and quantitative analysis of phenylpropanoids of leaf tissue and leaf surface, and a histochemical localization of flavonoids were conducted. The area of sun leaves reached 57% of that of shade leaves, whereas leaf angle (β), sclerophylly index (ratio of leaf d. wt:leaf area), and trichome frequency (trichome number mm−2 ) were markedly greater in leaves exposed to full solar radiation than in leaves acclimated to shade. The total thickness of sun leaves was 78% higher than that of shade leaves, mostly owing to a greater development of both palisade parenchyma and spongy mesophyll. The concentration, but not the composition, of leaf tissue phenylpropanoids varied significantly between sun and shade leaves, with a marked increase in flavonoid glycosides in sun leaves. Flavonoids occurred almost exclusively in the upper epidermal cells of shade leaves. By contrast, flavonoids largely accumulated in the upper and lower epidermis, as well as in the mesophyll tissue of leaves that were acclimated to full sunlight. Flavonoid glycosides were found exclusively in the secretory products of glandular trichomes of P. latifolia leaves exposed to high levels of light; luteolin 7-O- glucoside and quercetin 3-O-rutinoside were the major constituents. By contrast, verbascoside and an unidentified caffeic acid derivative constituted 72% of total phenylpropanoids secreted by glandular trichomes of shade leaves, whereas they were not detected in glandular trichomes of sun leaves. These findings suggest that the light-induced synthesis of flavonoids in glandular trichomes of P. latifolia probably occurs in situ and concomitantly inactivates other branch pathways of the general phenylpropanoid metabolism. This is the first report of the key role of glandular trichomes and of flavonoid glycosides in the integrated mechanisms of acclimation of P. latifolia to excess light.