Plastic responses to environmental stressors: Biosynthesis of anthocyanins increases in Eucalyptus pauciflora and Richea continentis with elevation

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Gregory Gauthier-Coles
Cynthia Turnbull
Ray Zhang
Tanja Cobden

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Abstract

As a subclass of the flavonoid family of secondary metabolites, anthocyanins have been studied closely in recent years for their multitudinous protective properties in plants. Described as ‘nature’s Swiss army knife’, anthocyanins have putative antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, photo-protective and colligative characteristics, which have made them a subject of much scientific interest. Anthocyanins are the primarily expressed group of flavonoids in angiosperms such as Eucalyptus pauciflora and Richea continentis. These species of plants are widely found in the Australian alpine environment of the Kosciuszko National Park, a region that is particularly susceptible to climate change. In studying anthocyanin concentration in the leaves of E. pauciflora and R. continentis in parts of the Kosciuszko National Park, anthocyanin concentration was found to positively correlate with elevation. In accordance with previous scientific research, anthocyanin accumulation greatly increased in leaves showing evidence of pathogen attack. In spite of methodological limitations, results of this study support the notion of plasticity in the expression of enzymes involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis. Furthermore, these findings may have implications in climate change modelling in relation to plant species distribution of the Australian alpine region and in conservation ecology. 

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