The same anthocyanins served four different ways: Insights into anthocyanin structure-function relationships from the wintergreen orchid, Tipularia discolor

Nicole M. Hughes, Michaela K. Connors, Mary H. Grace, Mary Ann Lila, Brooke N. Willans, Andrew J. Wommack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Over 500 unique anthocyanins have been described to date, which vary in color, antioxidant, light-attenuating, and antimicrobial properties. Identification of anthocyanin chemical structure may therefore serve as an important clue to their in situ function in plants. We characterized the histological and chemical structures of anthocyanins associated with diverse leaf color patterns in the terrestrial orchid, Tipularia discolor, as a step towards understanding their ultimate function. Tipularia discolor produces a single wintergreen leaf in autumn, which is drab brown in color during expansion. Upper (adaxial) surfaces of fully-expanded leaves may be green, purple-spotted, or solid purple, while lower (abaxial) surfaces are bright magenta. Our results showed that the same three cyanidin 3,7,3′-triglucosides, in similar concentrations and proportions, accounted for coloration in each of these cases, and that different colors result from differences in histological location of anthocyanins (i.e. abaxial/adaxial epidermis, mesophyll). Anthocyanins with 3,7,3′ linkage positions are rare in plants, occurring only within the orchid subfamily Epidendroideae, to which Tipularia belongs. These results are important to the discussion of anthocyanin structure-function because they serve as a reminder that 1) plants may employ the same anthocyanins in different anatomical locations to achieve a broad range of colors (and potentially adaptive functions), and 2) anthocyanin chemical structure and anatomical location are influenced by phylogenetic inertia, as well as natural selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110793
JournalPlant Science
Volume303
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

  • 3,7,3′-Triglucoside
  • Abaxial/adaxial anthocyanins
  • Acylated cyanidin
  • Camouflage
  • Chemotaxonomy
  • Herbivory defense
  • Leaf color evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science

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