University of Oulu

Flavonoid biosynthesis in bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.)

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Author: Jaakola, Laura1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2003
Publish Date: 2003-11-21
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on November 21st, 2003, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Professor Howard Davies
Docent Kirsi-Marja Oksman-Caldentey


Flavonoids are a class of secondary metabolites in plants that are involved in many important functions. Various flavonoid compounds have also been reported to be beneficial for human health. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is the characteristic field layer species in boreal forests and the fruits of bilberry are rich in anthocyanin pigments, a subclass of flavonoids. In the present work, flavonoid biosynthesis was examined in different tissues of bilberry. The focus was on the developing fruits of wild type and natural color mutants of bilberry, and on effect of solar radiation on flavonoid biosynthesis in bilberry leaves.

For the isolation of RNA for gene expression analysis, a method was optimized for different tissues of bilberry. The cDNA fragments of five genes from the flavonoid pathway, coding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase, chalcone synthase, flavanone 3-hydroxylase, dihydroflavanol 4-reductase and anthocyanidin synthase, were isolated from bilberry using polymerase chain reaction technique, sequenced, and labelled with dioxigenin-dUTP label. These homologous, bilberry-specific probes were used for determining the expression of the flavonoid pathway genes in bilberry fruits, flowers and leaves with a modified non-radioactive method developed in the course of the study. The anthocyanins, catechins, proanthocyanidins, flavonols and hydroxycinnamic acids in fruits, leaves and different fractions of bilberry were identified and quantified with high-performance liquid chromatography combined with a diode array detector and mass spectrometer.

The results demonstrate a correlation between anthocyanin accumulation and expression of the flavonoid pathway genes during the ripening of berries. A correlation between flavonol and anthocyanin biosynthesis was detected in bilberry and also in previous literature collected from flavonol and anthocyanin analyses from other fruits. Accordingly, models for the connection between flavonol and anthocyanin synthesis in fruit species were suggested. Activation of the expression of flavonoid pathway genes and accumulation of flavonoids and hydroxycinnamic acids was detected in leaves growing under direct solar radiation, compared to the shadow leaves of the same plants. Based on the results, it is suggested that cyanidin of anthocyanins and flavonol quercetin play a predominant role in the defence against high solar radiation in Vaccinium leaves.

The results give new information about the biosynthesis of flavonoids in bilberry at the gene level, in addition to the information of the composition and content of flavonoids during fruit development and in different parts of the bilberry plant. Also, new information was obtained of the roles of flavonoids in protecting plants from excess solar radiation.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7159-9
ISBN Print: 951-42-7158-0
Issue: 404
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2003. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.