1 August 2012
Proanthocyanidins (PAs) are products of the flavonoid pathway, which also leads to the production of anthocyanins and flavonols. Many flavonoids have antioxidant properties and may have beneficial effects for human health. PAs are found in the seeds and fruits of many plants. In apple fruit ( Malus × domestica Borkh.), the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway is most active in the skin, with the flavan-3-ols, catechin, and epicatechin acting as the initiating units for the synthesis of PA polymers. This study examined the genes involved in the production of PAs in three apple cultivars: two heritage apple cultivars, Hetlina and Devonshire Quarrenden, and a commercial cultivar, Royal Gala. HPLC analysis shows that tree-ripe fruit from Hetlina and Devonshire Quarrenden had a higher phenolic content than Royal Gala. Epicatechin and catechin biosynthesis is under the control of the biosynthetic enzymes anthocyanidin reductase (ANR) and leucoanthocyanidin reductase (LAR1), respectively. Counter-intuitively, real-time quantitative PCR analysis showed that the expression levels of Royal Gala LAR1 and ANR were significantly higher than those of both Devonshire Quarrenden and Hetlina. This suggests that a compensatory feedback mechanism may be active, whereby low concentrations of PAs may induce higher expression of gene transcripts. Further investigation is required into the regulation of these key enzymes in apple.