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Elucidating the role of shikimate dehydrogenase in controlling the production of anthocyanins and hydrolysable tannins in the outer peels of pomegranate


BACKGROUND:The outer peels of pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) possess two groups of polyphenols that have health beneficial properties: anthocyanins (ATs, which also affect peel color); and hydrolysable tannins (HTs). Their biosynthesis intersects at 3-dehydroshikimate (3-DHS) in the shikimate pathway by the activity of shikimate dehydrogenase (SDH), which converts 3-DHS to shikimate (providing the precursor for AT biosynthesis) or to gallic acid (the precursor for HTs biosynthesis) using NADPH or NADP+ as a cofactor. The aim of this study is to gain more knowledge about the factors that regulate the levels of HTs and ATs, and the role of SDH. RESULTS:The results have shown that the levels of ATs and HTs are negatively correlated in the outer fruit peels of 33 pomegranate accessions, in the outer peels of two fruits exposed to sunlight, and in those covered by paper bags. When calli obtained from the outer fruit peel were subjected to light/dark treatment and osmotic stresses (imposed by different sucrose concentrations), it was shown that light with high sucrose promotes the synthesis of ATs, while dark at the same sucrose concentration promotes the synthesis of HTs. To verify the role of SDH, six PgSDHs (PgSDH1, PgSDH3-1,2, PgSDH3a-1,2 and PgSDH4) were identified in pomegranate. The expression of PgSDH1, which presumably contributes to shikimate biosynthesis, was relatively constant at different sucrose concentrations. However, the transcript levels of PgSDH3s and PgSDH4 increased with the accumulation of gallic acid and HTs under osmotic stress, which apparently accumulates to protect the cells from the stress. CONCLUSIONS:The results strongly suggest that the biosynthesis of HTs and ATs competes for the same substrate, 3-DHS, and that SDH activity is regulated not only by the NADPH/NADP+ ratio, but also by the expression of the PgSDHs. Since the outer peel affects the customer's decision regarding fruit consumption, such knowledge could be utilized for the development of new genetic markers for breeding pomegranates having higher levels of both ATs and HTs.

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