Influence of nitrogen on the production of hypericins by St. John's wort

Donald P Briskin, Andre Leroy, Margaret Gawienowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of nitrogen supply on the production of 'hypericins' (hypericin and pseudohypericin) in leaves of St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) was examined with plants grown in sand culture and soil. In sand culture, 56-d growth of St. John's wort plants with decreased nitrogen levels resulted in increased production of hypericins in leaves. A short-term low nitrogen stress in sand culture also resulted in increased production of leaf hypericins. While growth in a low nitrogen-containing soil resulted in elevated levels of hypericins, their production was decreased by supplementation of the soil with additional nitrogen. Increased production of hypericins in St. John's wort leaves did not require the nitrogen supply to be decreased to levels that resulted in nitrogen deficiency symptoms. Moreover, alteration in the production of leaf hypericins occurring with changes in nitrogen supply did not alter the concentration ratio of pseudohypericin and hypericin. Increased production of leaf hypericins was not associated with any significant changes in the number of dark glands on the leaves and only a weak correlation was observed between leaf dark gland number and levels of leaf hypericins. These results are discussed in terms of the biochemistry of naphthodianthrone production by St. John's wort plants and implications for growth environment effects during cultivated growth of this medicinal plant. (C) 2000 Editions scientifiques et medicales Elsevier SAS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-420
Number of pages8
JournalPlant Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2000


  • Guttiferae
  • Hypericin
  • Hypericum perforatum
  • Medicinal plant
  • Naphthodianthrones
  • Pseudohypericin
  • St. John's wort

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science


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