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Keywords:

  • stress acclimation;
  • carotenoid;
  • oxidation;
  • reactive oxygen species;
  • signaling;
  • singlet oxygen

Summary

Carotenoids are known to play important roles in plants as antioxidants, accessory light-harvesting pigments, and attractants for pollinators and seed dispersers. A new function for carotenoids has recently emerged, which relates to the response of plants to environmental stresses. Reactive oxygen species, especially singlet oxygen, produced in the chloroplasts under stress conditions, can oxidize carotenoids leading to a variety of oxidized products, including aldehydes, ketones, endoperoxides and lactones. Some of those carotenoid derivatives, such as volatile β–cyclocitral, derived from the oxidation of β–carotene, are reactive electrophile species that are bioactive and can induce changes in gene expression leading to acclimation to stress conditions. This review summarizes the current knowledge on the non-enzymatic oxidation of carotenoids, the bioactivity of the resulting cleavage compounds and their functions as stress signals in plants.