Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Anthocyanins in leaves: light attenuators or antioxidants?

Samuel O. Neill and Kevin S. Gould

Functional Plant Biology 30(8) 865 - 873
Published: 22 August 2003


Anthocyanins have the potential to mitigate photooxidative injury in leaves, both by shielding chloroplasts from excess high-energy quanta, and by scavenging reactive oxygen species. To distinguish between the impacts of these two putative mechanisms, superoxide (O2) concentration and chlorophyll oxidation were measured for Lactuca sativa L. chloroplast suspensions under various light and antioxidant-supplemented environments. A red cellulose filter, the optical properties of which approximated that of anthocyanin, effected a 33% decline in rate of O2 generation and 37% reduction in chlorophyll bleaching, when used to shield irradiated chloroplasts. Colourless and blue tautomers of cyanidin 3-(6-malonyl)glucoside at pH 7 removed up to 17% of O2 generated by chloroplasts, indicating that cytosolic anthocyanins can serve as effective antioxidants. Red tautomers, typical of vacuolar anthocyanins, also showed strong reducing potentials as indicated by cyclic voltammetry. These potentials declined by 40% after 15 min exposure to O2. Maximum quantum efficiencies of photosynthesis were similar for red and green portions of intact L. sativa leaves, but the red regions were less photoinhibited, and recovered more extensively after exposures to strong light. Anthocyanins evidently offer effective and versatile protection to leaves without significantly compromising photosynthesis.

Keywords: anthocyanin, antioxidant, Lactuca sativa, photoinhibition, photooxidative stress, reactive oxygen species.

© CSIRO 2003

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