Anthocyanin in Plants
Jun 11, 2021

Anthocyanin in plants

Anthocyanins are a group of polyphenolic pigments that are ubiquitously found in the plant kingdom. In plants, anthocyanins play a role not only in reproduction, by attracting pollinators and seed dispersers, but also in protection against various abiotic and biotic stresses. There is accumulating evidence that anthocyanins have health-promoting properties, which makes anthocyanin metabolism an interesting target for breeders and researchers. In this review, the state of the art knowledge concerning anthocyanins in the Solanaceous vegetables, i.e., pepper, tomato, eggplant, and potato, is discussed, including biochemistry and biological function of anthocyanins, as well as their genetic and environmental regulation.

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Anthocyanin pigment in plants

Anthocyanins are plant pigments widespread in nature. They play relevant roles in plant propagation and ecophysiology and plant defense mechanisms and are responsible for the color of fruits and vegetables. A large number of novel anthocyanin structures have been identified, including new families such as pyranoanthocyanins or anthocyanin oligomers; their biosynthesis pathways have been elucidated, and new plants with “a la carte” colors have been created by genetic engineering. Furthermore, evidence about their benefits in human health has accumulated, and processes of anthocyanin absorption and biotransformation in the human organism have started to be ascertained. These advances in anthocyanin research were revised in the Seventh International Workshop on Anthocyanins that took place in Porto (Portugal) on September 9–11, 2013. Some selected papers are collected in this special issue, where aspects such as anthocyanin accumulation in plants, relationship with color expression, stability in plants and food, and bioavailability or biological activity are revised.

Anthocyanin formation in plants

Anthocyanins are frequently produced when photo-synthetic activity at the site of eventual pigmentation is diminished through seasonal changes or various kinds of injuries to the plant (mechanical, fungus disease, etc.). Under such conditions, carbohydrates and other synthetic products tend to accumulate as the result of interference with the translocation currents. Abundant nutriment favours anthocyanin formation, which can, in many cases, be accelerated by artificial feeding with sugars.

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Use of anthocyanin in plants

Anthocyanins are water-soluble naturally occurring pigments that are therapeutically beneficial and that have gained considerable interests by researchers in the field of phytopharmaceuticals and pharmacology. The evidence based scientific reports on the potential and efficacy of anthocyanins has caused an upsurge in their testing in clinical trials and formulation of herbal drug supplements since the past few decades. Their structural attributes enable them to be absorbed and react with various biomolecules in the human body, to provide beneficial physiological benefits. The anthocyanins are 2-phenylbenzopyrylium derivatives of dietary phenolics and exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and protective effects against metabolic and cardiovascular conditions. The metabolism of anthocyanins and their stability in-vivo in human body and during post-harvest storage still needs extensive investigation to fully explore their benefits. In the present chapter, we discuss the chemistry, medicinal uses in folklore/traditional medicine and the natural sources of their occurrence. The pre-clinical, clinical and pharmaceutical applications are also discussed, to emphasize the consumer demands and medicinal value of anthocyanins.

Functions of anthocyanin in plants

i. In flowers, bright reds and purples due to anthocyanin pigments help attract pollinators. In fruits, the colorful skins also attract the at­tention of animals, which may eat the fruits and disperse the seeds.

ii. In photosynthetic tissues (such as leaves and sometimes stems), anthocyanin have been shown to act as a “sunscreen“, protecting cells from high-light damage by absorbing blue- green light, thereby protecting the tissues from photo-inhibition, or high-light stress. This has been shown to occur in red juvenile leaves, autumn leaves, and broad-leaved evergreen leaves that turn red during the winter.

iii. It has also been proposed that red coloration of leaves may camouflage leaves from herbi­vores blind to red wavelengths, or signal un- palatability, since anthocyanin synthesis of­ten coincides with synthesis of unpalatable phenolic compounds.

iv. In addition to their role as light-attenuators, anthocyanins also act as powerful antioxi­dants.

anthocyanin red cabbage

How do you increase anthocyanin in plants

Magnesium treatment caused a significant increase in anthocyanin concentrations (between 15% and 70%) in all plants, with a stronger effect under elevated temperature regimes. Magnesium treatments were effective when given to whole plants, cut branches, or detached flower buds. Our results suggest that turnover of anthocyanins occurs in all four plants, and that stabilising the pigments may serve as a method to increase pigment concentration.

Where are anthocyanin found?

Anthocyanins are the vital coloring pigments evident, are present in all plant tissues throughout the plant kingdom. Нe word Anthocyanin is a combination of two Greek words Anthos and Kyanos, (Anthos=Flower, and Kyanos=Blue). Anthocyanins are naturally occurring compounds having member of the flavonoid class of phytochemicals, predominantly found in wines, tea, nuts, fruits,cocoa, cereals, honey, olive oil, vegetables, blackcurrant, red cabbage, red radish, and black carrot.

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