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Metabolism in orange fruits is driven by photooxidative stress in the leaves

Poiroux‐Gonord, Florine, Santini, Jérémie, Fanciullino, Anne‐Laure, Lopez‐Lauri, Félicie, Giannettini, Jean, Sallanon, Huguette, Berti, Liliane, Urban, Laurent
Physiologia plantarum 2013 v.149 no.2 pp. 175-187
Citrus sinensis, ascorbate peroxidase, carotenoids, enzyme activity, fructose, fruit pulp, fruits, glucose, leaves, monodehydroascorbate reductase (NADH), oxidative stress, photoinhibition, succinic acid, sucrose, sugar content, superoxide dismutase
In plants, stress signals propagate to trigger distant responses and thus stress acclimation in non‐exposed organs. We tested here the hypothesis that leaves submitted to photooxidative stress may influence the metabolism of nearby fruits and thus quality criteria. Leaves of orange trees (Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck cv. ‘Navelate’) were acclimated to shade for 1 week and then submitted to full (FL) and medium light (ML) conditions. As expected, photoinhibition was detected in leaves of both FL and ML treatments as revealed by stress indicators (Fᵥ/Fₘ, Performance Index) for at least 99 h after treatments. In the fruits near the stressed leaves, we then determined the activities of enzymes related to oxidative stress, superoxide dismutase, catalase and the enzymes of the ascorbate (AA)/glutathione cycle, as well as the contents in sugars, organic acids and carotenoids. Ascorbate peroxidase and monodehydroascorbate reductase activities in the pulp of fruits were dramatically higher in both treatments when compared to the control. AA and total sugars were not affected by the photooxidative stress. However, the FL treatment resulted in a 16% increase in total organic acids, with succinic acid being the major contributor, a shift towards less glucose + fructose and more sucrose, and a 15% increase in total carotenoids, with cis‐violaxanthin being the major contributor. Our observations strongly suggest the existence of a signal generated in leaves in consequence of photooxidative stress, transmitted to nearby fruits. Exploiting such a signal by agronomic means promises exciting perspectives in managing quality criteria in fruits accumulating carotenoids.