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

Carotenoids in nature: insights from plants and beyond

Christopher I. Cazzonelli

Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Building 134, Linnaeus Way, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Email: christopher.cazzonelli@anu.edu.au

This review originates from the Peter Goldacre Award 2010 of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists that was received by the author.

Functional Plant Biology 38(11) 833-847 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/FP11192
Submitted: 19 August 2011  Accepted: 30 August 2011   Published: 18 October 2011

Abstract

Carotenoids are natural isoprenoid pigments that provide leaves, fruits, vegetables and flowers with distinctive yellow, orange and some reddish colours as well as several aromas in plants. Their bright colours serve as attractants for pollination and seed dispersal. Carotenoids comprise a large family of C40 polyenes and are synthesised by all photosynthetic organisms, aphids, some bacteria and fungi alike. In animals carotenoid derivatives promote health, improve sexual behaviour and are essential for reproduction. As such, carotenoids are commercially important in agriculture, food, health and the cosmetic industries. In plants, carotenoids are essential components required for photosynthesis, photoprotection and the production of carotenoid-derived phytohormones, including ABA and strigolactone. The carotenoid biosynthetic pathway has been extensively studied in a range of organisms providing an almost complete pathway for carotenogenesis. A new wave in carotenoid biology has revealed implications for epigenetic and metabolic feedback control of carotenogenesis. Developmental and environmental signals can regulate carotenoid gene expression thereby affecting carotenoid accumulation. This review highlights mechanisms controlling (1) the first committed step in phytoene biosynthesis, (2) flux through the branch to synthesis of α- and β-carotenes and (3) metabolic feedback signalling within and between the carotenoid, MEP and ABA pathways.

Additional keywords: abscisic acid, apocarotenoids, carotenoid, chloroplast, chromatin, epigenetic, hormones, isoprenoid, metabolic feedback, plant, photoisomerisation, regulation, signal molecule, strigolactone.


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