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ABSTRACT

Isatis tinctoria L. and Isatis indigotica Fort. are biennial herbaceous plants belonging to the family of Cruciferae that are used as a source of natural indigo and show several morphological and genetic differences. Production of indigo (indigotin) precursors, indican (indoxyl β-D glucoside) and isatan B (indoxyl ketogluconate), together with seed germination ability were compared in Isatis tinctoria and Isatis indigotica grown under six different light conditions (darkness, white, red, far red, blue, yellow light) at 25°C. Light quality influenced both germination and production of indigo precursors in the two Isatis species. Different responsiveness to far red and blue light was observed. Indeed, a detrimental effect on germination by blue and far red light was found in I. tinctoria only. Different amounts of isatan B were produced under red and far red light in the two Isatis species. In I. tinctoria, the level of main indigo precursor isatan B was maximal under red light and minimal under far red light. Whereas in I. indigotica far red light promoted a large accumulation of isatan B. The photon fluence rate dependency for white and yellow light responses showed that the accumulation of indigo precursors was differently influenced in the two Isatis species. In particular, both white and yellow light enhanced above 40 μmol m−2s−1 the production of isatan B in I. indigotica while only white light showed a photon fluence dependency in I. tinctoria. These results suggest a different role played by the labile and stable phytochrome species (phyA and phyB) in the isatan B production in I. tinctoria and I. indigotica. I. indigotica, whose germination percentage was not influenced by light quality, demonstrated higher germination capability compared with I. tinctoria. In fact, I. tinctoria showed high frequency of germination in darkness and under light sources that establish high phytochrome photoequilibrium (red, white and yellow light). Germination in I. tinctoria was negatively affected by far red and blue light. I. indigotica seeds appear to be indifferent to canopy-like light (far red). Our results provide further insights on the distinct behaviour of I. tinctoria and I. indigotica that belong to two different genetic clusters and different original environments.