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Leaf color is an important trait in breeding of leafy vegetables. Y-05, a pakchoi (Brassica rapa ssp. chinensis) cultivar, displays yellow inner (YIN) and green outer leaves (GOU) after cold acclimation. However, the mechanism of this special phenotype remains elusive. We assumed that the yellow leaf phenotype of Y-05 maybe caused by low chlorophyll content. Pigments measurements and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) analysis showed that the yellow phenotype is closely related with decreased chlorophyll content and undeveloped thylakoids in chloroplast. Transcriptomes and metabolomes sequencing were next performed on YIN and GOU. The transcriptomes data showed that 4887 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between the YIN and GOU leaves were mostly enriched in the chloroplast- and chlorophyll-related categories, indicating that the chlorophyll biosynthesis is mainly affected during cold acclimation. Together with metabolomes data, the inhibition of chlorophyll biosynthesis is contributed by blocked 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA) synthesis in yellow inner leaves, which is further verified by complementary and inhibitory experiments of ALA. Furthermore, we found that the blocked ALA is closely associated with increased BrFLU expression, which is indirectly altered by cold acclimation. In BrFLU-silenced pakchoi Y-05, cold-acclimated leaves still showed green phenotype and higher chlorophyll content compared with control, meaning silencing of BrFLU can rescue the leaf yellowing induced by cold acclimation. Our findings suggested that cold acclimation can indirectly promote the expression of BrFLU in inner leaves of Y-05 to block ALA synthesis, resulting in decreased chlorophyll content and leaf yellowing. This study revealed the underlying mechanisms of leaves color change in cold-acclimated Y-05.


Huiyu Wang, Zhubo Li, Lingyun Yuan, Hefang Zhou, Xilin Hou, Tongkun Liu. Cold acclimation can specifically inhibit chlorophyll biosynthesis in young leaves of Pakchoi. BMC plant biology. 2021 Apr 10;21(1):172

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PMID: 33838654

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