Elucidation of the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway has enabled altering the composition and content of carotenoids in various plants, but to achieve desired nutritional impacts, the genetic components regulating carotenoid homeostasis in seed, the plant organ consumed in greatest abundance, must be elucidated. We used a combination of linkage mapping, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), and pathway-level analysis to identify nine loci that impact the natural variation of seed carotenoids in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). ZEAXANTHIN EPOXIDASE (ZEP) was the major contributor to carotenoid composition, with mutants lacking ZEP activity showing a remarkable 6-fold increase in total seed carotenoids relative to the wild type. Natural variation in ZEP gene expression during seed development was identified as the underlying mechanism for fine-tuning carotenoid composition, stability, and ultimately content in Arabidopsis seed. We previously showed that two CAROTENOID CLEAVAGE DIOXYGENASE enzymes, CCD1 and CCD4, are the primary mediators of seed carotenoid degradation, and here we demonstrate that ZEP acts as an upstream control point of carotenoid homeostasis, with ZEP-mediated epoxidation targeting carotenoids for degradation by CCD enzymes. Finally, four of the nine loci/enzymatic activities identified as underlying natural variation in Arabidopsis seed carotenoids also were identified in a recent GWAS of maize (Zea mays) kernel carotenoid variation. This first comparison of the natural variation in seed carotenoids in monocots and dicots suggests a surprising overlap in the genetic architecture of these traits between the two lineages and provides a list of likely candidates to target for selecting seed carotenoid variation in other species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science