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Application of melatonin promotes anthocyanin accumulation in crabapple leaves

Chen, Li, Tian, Ji, Wang, Sifan, Song, Tingting, Zhang, Jie, Yao, Yuncong
Plant physiology and biochemistry 2019 v.142 pp. 332-341
Malus, anthocyanins, biosynthesis, cultivars, flavonols, human health, leaves, melatonin, plantlets, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, regulator genes, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, transcription factors, woody plants
Anthocyanins are a class of compounds that are widespread in plants, where they provide protection against stresses, and are also beneficial to human health as dietary components. Melatonin application is known to affect anthocyanin production, but the relationship between anthocyanin and melatonin is still unclear. In this study, we analyzed anthocyanin contents and the expression levels of anthocyanin biosynthetic and regulatory genes in tissue cultured plantlets of two Malus crabapple cultivars following various exogenous melatonin treatments under light and dark conditions. The application of exogenous melatonin not only promoted anthocyanin accumulation in leaves, but also increased the contents of flavonols and proanthocyanins (PAs), via a process that was not dependent on light. Quantitative real time PCR (qRT-PCR) analyses indicated that the expression of flavonoid biosynthetic genes, flavonoid related transcription factors and melatonin biosynthetic genes was induced by melatonin. We propose that anthocyanin biosynthesis is regulated by melatonin in crabapple leaves via the expression of flavonoid related transcription factors. This study provides insight into the mechanism of melatonin induction of anthocyanin biosynthesis in woody plants, and suggests that pretreatment with melatonin may represent a cultivation strategy to increase the flavonoid contents of plants.