News Release

Flavonoid fortune: citrus genes llluminate path to nutrient richness

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Nanjing Agricultural University The Academy of Science

Changes in phenotype, content of main FGs, and expression levels of Cit7GlcTs in citrus under HLB infection.


Changes in phenotype, content of main FGs, and expression levels of Cit7GlcTs in citrus under HLB infection. (A), (B), and (C) show the changes in phenotype, content of main FGs, and expression levels of Cit7GlcTs after HLB infection in ‘Shatian’ pummelo, ‘Shatang’ mandarin, and ‘Newhall’ navel orange, respectively. HLB, Huanglongbing. ns, not significant, *P < 0.05, **P < 0.01; ***P < 0.001; ****P < 0.0001.

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Credit: Horticulture Research

Scientists have unlocked the genetic secrets behind the biosynthesis of flavonoid glycosides in citrus, a breakthrough that could fortify the nutritional potency and disease resistance of these fruits. This discovery refines our grasp of the genetic orchestration of these beneficial compounds, setting the stage for an upgrade in citrus nutrition and health.

Citrus fruits, celebrated for their zesty taste and dense flavonoid content, are integral to diets for their health-boosting properties. These natural compounds are linked to a spectrum of wellness benefits, yet the genetic blueprint directing their synthesis has been shrouded in mystery. Given their significance, illuminating the genetic pathways that govern flavonoid production is essential for advancing citrus cultivation and health science.

A team of researchers from Huazhong Agricultural University has charted new territory in the genetic landscape of citrus, with their revelations featured (DOI: 10.1093/hr/uhae098) in the esteemed Horticulture Research journal on April 25, 2024. The study zeroes in on the role of specific flavonoid 7-O-glucosyltransferase genes in the synthesis of flavonoid glycosides, uncovering a new layer of complexity in citrus biology.

Through rigorous transcriptomic and metabolomic scrutiny, the study spotlights six flavonoid 7-O-glucosyltransferase genes, four of which—CgUGT90A31, CgUGT89AK1, CgUGT73AC12, and CgUGT89D30—emerge as linchpins in flavonoid glycosylation. Their broad catalytic profiles across flavonoid substrates are revealed, highlighting their pivotal function in the flavonoid biosynthetic cascade. This genetic insight could prove instrumental in the precision breeding of citrus varieties with enhanced nutritional profiles and disease resistance.

Dr. Juan Xu, a preeminent figure in agricultural genomics and co-author of the study, underscores its impact: "Our research demystifies a critical aspect of citrus flavonoid production, offering a genetic roadmap for enriching the health attributes of citrus and potentially fortifying their defense mechanisms against afflictions like Huanglongbing."

The study's ramifications are profound, signaling a new era in agricultural biotechnology. With the genetic insights at hand, the cultivation of citrus breeds rich in flavonoids becomes a tangible goal, promising a bountiful harvest of fruits that are not only more nutritious but also more robust against pests and diseases, thereby enriching both public health and agricultural economies.





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Funding information

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC, No. 32002010) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2023YFD2300600).

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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