News Release

Harvesting strength: how tea plants fight off disease while staying tender

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

The CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module regulates lignin biosynthesis to balance tenderness and resistance in young tea shoots.


The CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module regulates lignin biosynthesis to balance tenderness and resistance in young tea shoots.

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Credit: Horticulture Research

A novel study uncovers the regulatory interplay between lignin biosynthesis and tenderness in young tea shoots, offering a promising avenue for improving tea quality and disease resistance. The research spotlights the CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module, which orchestrates a balance between the shoots' tenderness and their resilience against gray blight, a prevalent fungal disease. This discovery could redefine tea cultivation by optimizing plant traits for both superior taste and robust health.

Tea, one of the oldest and most popular beverages, is cherished for its economic, medicinal, and cultural value. The quality of tea largely depends on the tenderness of young tea shoots, which are high in bioactive compounds. However, achieving optimal tenderness while ensuring disease resistance, especially against gray blight, remains a significant challenge. To address these issues, researchers are delving into the regulatory mechanisms of lignin biosynthesis in tea shoots, aiming to find a balance that enhances both quality and resistance.

Researchers from Northwest A&F University have made a significant stride in this field, with their findings (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae085) published in the Horticulture Research journal on March 28, 2024. The study delves into the regulatory role of the CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module in lignin biosynthesis, the key to the tenderness and disease resistance in tea shoots.

The study discovered that the CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module plays a pivotal role in regulating lignin biosynthesis in tea plants. When CsLAC17 was overexpressed, lignin content significantly increased, leading to enhanced disease resistance but reduced tenderness of the tea shoots. On the other hand, CsmiR397a acted as a negative regulator of CsLAC17, reducing lignin accumulation and thereby increasing the tenderness of the shoots. These results were validated through experiments in both Arabidopsis and tea plants, demonstrating that the CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module is essential for balancing lignin levels. This balance is crucial as lignin strengthens cell walls against pathogen invasion but also affects the concentration of bioactive compounds in the shoots. Therefore, understanding and manipulating this regulatory mechanism can help achieve the optimal balance between quality and resistance, enhancing the overall value of tea plants.

Dr. Weidong Wang, the lead researcher, stated, "Our findings highlight the dual role of the CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module in tea plants. By understanding and manipulating this regulatory mechanism, we can develop tea cultivars that offer both high quality and robust disease resistance, benefiting both producers and consumers."

This study provides valuable insights into the genetic regulation of lignin biosynthesis in tea plants. The CsmiR397a-CsLAC17 module offers a potential target for breeding programs aiming to improve tea quality and resistance. The ability to balance tenderness and disease resistance could lead to the development of superior tea cultivars, enhancing the economic value and sustainability of tea production.





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Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31902071), the Key Research and Development Program of Shaanxi (No. 2022NY-154), and the China Agricultural Research System of Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (CARS-19). We sincerely thank Dr Yangyang Yuan (Horticulture Science Research Center at College of Horticulture, NWAFU) for their technical support in this work.

About Horticulture Research

Horticulture Research is an open access journal of Nanjing Agricultural University and ranked number one in the Horticulture category of the Journal Citation Reports ™ from Clarivate, 2022. The journal is committed to publishing original research articles, reviews, perspectives, comments, correspondence articles and letters to the editor related to all major horticultural plants and disciplines, including biotechnology, breeding, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, genetics, inter-species interactions, physiology, and the origination and domestication of crops.

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