Plants respond to environmental stimuli in a diversity of ways including the production of secondary metabolites. Biosynthesis of plant phenolics, including flavonoids, is frequently activated in response to a variety of abiotic and biotic stressors (e.g. extreme temperatures, high radiation, pathogens, etc.). This induced reaction is typically assumed to be a plastic response, but the components attributable to plasticity vs genetic variance in these components are poorly understood. Here, we investigate the variation in flavonoid production (anthocyanins and flavones) in petals and in photosynthetic tissues (calyces, leaves and stems) of Silene littorea. We performed a common garden experiment with maternal families from three populations in which plants were exposed to different light treatments (sun exposure and shade). The concentrations of anthocyanins in photosynthetic tissues increased when plants were exposed to sun, except for leaves that showed very low quantities of anthocyanins in both light treatments; yet flavones are produced constitutively in both sun and shade treatments. The synthesis of both anthocyanins and flavones is mostly plastic, with 25 to 43% of total phenotypic variance explained by light environment. We found significant environmental effects in anthocyanin biosynthesis in calyces and stems, and in flavone production in all photosynthetic tissues. Petals showed considerably less plasticity in anthocyanin production in contrast with the accumulation of these compounds in calyces and stems. Flavones exhibited less than half of the degree of phenotypic plasticity compared to anthocyanins in calyces and stems. Overall, these results provide new insights into the degree of tissue-specific plasticity and flavonoid-specific response. Variable plasticity between flavonoids types in petals and photosynthetic tissues may allow this annual plant to differentially respond to changing light environments, while maintaining constitutive petal color in response to pollinators.
Del Valle, J. C., Buide, M. L., Whittall, J. B., & Narbona, E. (2018). Phenotypic plasticity in light-induced flavonoids varies among tissues in Silene littorea (Caryophyllaceae). Environmental and Experimental Botany, 153, 100–107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envexpbot.2018.05.014
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