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Changes in carotenoids, tocopherols and diterpenes during drought and recovery, and the biological significance of chlorophyll loss in Rosmarinus officinalis plants

S. Munné-Bosch and L. Alegre
Planta
Vol. 210, No. 6 (May 2000), pp. 925-931
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23385929
Page Count: 7
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Changes in carotenoids, tocopherols and diterpenes during drought and recovery, and the biological significance of chlorophyll loss in Rosmarinus officinalis plants
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Abstract

Two-year-old rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) plants were subjected to severe stress by exposure to prolonged drought during a Mediterranean summer. Severely stressed plants recovered completely after the autumn rainfalls although the relative water content remained below 35% for 3 months and the chlorophyll content of leaves was reduced by up to 85% during the drought. In severe stress: (i) α-tocopherol increased 9-fold per g dry weight and 20-fold per unit of chlorophyll; (ii) lutein and β-carotene contents decreased on a dry-weight basis, but an 80% increase in lutein and constant levels of β-carotene were observed on a chlorophyll basis; (iii) there were transient and sustained increases in the de-epoxidation state of the xanthophyll cycle; and (iv) the highly oxidised abietane diterpene isorosmanol increased 8-fold as a result of the oxidation of carnosic acid. With the autumn rainfalls, water status, α-tocopherol and violaxanthin recovered first and the levels of photosynthetic pigments and abietane diterpenes increased later. The photoprotection conferred by the xanthophyll cycle and the antioxidant function of tocopherols, lutein and diterpenes may help to avoid irreversible damage in severe drought, making possible the recovery of functional membranes after the autumn rainfalls. Besides, chlorophyll loss reduces the amount of photons absorbed by leaves, which enhances the photo-protective and antioxidant capacity of leaves per amount of photons absorbed, since the ratios of xanthophylls, α-tocopherol and abietane diterpenes to chlorophyll increase.

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