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Increase in flavan-3-ols by silencing flavonol synthase mRNA affects the transcript expression and activity levels of antioxidant enzymes in tobacco

Authors

  • M. Mahajan,

    1. Plant Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Palampur, India
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  • R. Joshi,

    1. Plant Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Palampur, India
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  • A. Gulati,

    1. Plant Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Palampur, India
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  • S. K. Yadav

    1. Plant Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Palampur, India
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  • Editor
    E. Pichersky

S. K. Yadav, Plant Metabolic Engineering Laboratory, CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Palampur 176061 (HP), India.
E-mail: skyt@rediffmail.com and sudeshkumar@ihbt.res.in

Abstract

Flavonoids are plant secondary metabolites widespread throughout the plant kingdom involved in many physiological and biochemical functions. Amongst the flavonoids, flavan-3-ols (catechin and epicatechin) are known for their direct free radical scavenging activity in vitro, but studies on their antioxidant potential and interaction with antioxidant enzymes in vivo are lacking. Here, the flavonoid pathway was engineered by silencing a gene encoding flavonol synthase (FLS) in tobacco to direct the flow of metabolites towards production of flavan-3-ols. FLS silencing reduced flavonol content 17–53%, while it increased catechin and epicatechin content 51–93% and 18–27%, respectively. The silenced lines showed a significant increase in expression of genes for dihydroflavonol reductase and anthocyanidin synthase, a downstream gene towards epicatechin production, with no significant change in expression of other genes of the flavonoid pathway. Effects of accumulation of flavan-3-ols in FLS silenced lines on transcript level and activities of antioxidant enzymes were studied. Transcripts of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione reductase (GR), ascorbate peroxidase (APx), and catalase (CAT) increased, while glutathione-S-transferase (GST), decreased in FLS silenced lines. Enhanced activity of all the antioxidant enzymes was observed in silenced tobacco lines. To validate the affect of flavan-3-ols on the antioxidant system, in vitro experiments were conducted with tobacco seedlings exposed to two concentrations of catechin (10  and 50 μm) for 2 days. In vitro exposed seedlings produced similar levels of transcripts and activity of antioxidant enzymes as FLS silenced seedlings. Results suggest that flavan-3-ols (catechin) might be increasing activity of GR, Apx and CAT by elevating their mRNAs levels. Since these enzymes are involved in scavenging of reactive oxygen species, this strategy would help in tailoring crops for enhanced catechin production as well as making them tolerant to oxidative stresses.

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