Why are peppers so red? The corresponding transcriptional regulatory mechanisms are revealed

Why are peppers so red? Recently, the pepper team of the College of Horticulture of South China Agricultural University, together with the Institute of Modern Agriculture of Peking University and other units, studied and analyzed the transcriptional regulation mechanism of capsaicin biosynthesis. The research was published online in the international academic journal Journal of Botany.

“Chili pepper is an important vegetable crop in China’s ‘vegetable basket’, and the molecular genetic mechanism of capsaicin biosynthesis is studied, which lays the foundation for the creation of a new germplasm of high capsaicin pepper.” Zhu Zhangsheng, one of the corresponding authors of the paper and associate professor of the College of Horticulture of South China Agricultural University, said.

The color developing substance of chili pepper is mainly capsicum red pigment. Photo courtesy of the research team

Capsaicin is a carotenoid that accumulates specifically and highly in the ripe fruit of chili pepper, which gives the ripe fruit its red color and determines the appearance and nutritional quality of the fruit. At the same time, capsaicin as a fat-soluble natural pigment, due to its excellent antioxidant and other biological activities and extremely high color valence, is widely used as an important industrial raw material in food, medicine, cosmetics and feed additives and other fields.

At present, the global capsaicin market size reaches billions of yuan, and the compound annual growth rate is increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 15%. In the field of food additives, capsaicin is listed as a class A pigment by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (that is, it can be added in unlimited quantities in use) due to its high color price, strong coloring power, good color retention effect and high safety.

Song Jiali, one of the co-first authors of the paper and a postdoctoral fellow at South China Agricultural University, said that capsaicin is mainly synthesized from the color change stage to the ripening stage of pepper fruit, and its synthetic genes PSY (octahydrolycopene synthetase), PDS (octahydrolycopene dehydrogenase), β-CH (β-carotene hydroxylase) and CCS (capsaicin-capsaicin synthetase) control capsaicin content at the transcriptional level, but the transcriptional regulatory mechanism of its synthesis is unclear.

In the latest study, researchers identified the key regulatory genes of capsaicin biosynthesis for the first time, clarified the mechanism of abscisic acid signaling mediated carotenoid biosynthesis in non-respiratory jumping pepper fruit, and discovered the evolutionary mechanism of capsaicin biosynthetic differential regulation in nightshade, which laid the foundation for the genetic improvement of pepper color.

According to Lei Jianjun, one of the corresponding authors of the paper and professor of the College of Horticulture of South China Agricultural University, up to now, the pepper team of the College of Horticulture has collected more than 3200 pepper germplasm resources with a wide range of genetic diversity from around the world, which provide important support for the study of important agronomic traits, flavor, color, metabolism quality and heterogeneous dominance formation mechanism of pepper, as well as molecular design breeding. (Source: China Science News Zhu Hanbin)

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