Ascorbate as seen through plant evolution: the rise of a successful molecule? - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Journal Articles Journal of Experimental Botany Year : 2013

Ascorbate as seen through plant evolution: the rise of a successful molecule?


Ascorbate is a widespread and efficient antioxidant that has multiple functions in plants, traditionally associated with the reactions of photosynthesis. This review aims to look at ascorbate from an evolutionary perspective. Cyanobacteria, algae, and bryophytes contain lower concentrations of ascorbate than higher plants, where the molecule accumulates in high concentrations in both photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic organs and tissues. This increase in ascorbate concentration is paralleled by an increase in the number of isoforms of ascorbate peroxidase and the ascorbate regenerating enzymes mono- and dehydroascorbate reductase. One way of understanding the rise in ascorbate concentrations is to consider ascorbate as a molecule among others that has been subject to selection pressures during evolution, due to its cost or benefit for the cell and the organism. Ascorbate has a low cost in terms of synthesis and toxicity, and its benefits include protection of the glutathione pool and proper functioning of a range of enzymes. The hypothesis presented here is that these features would have favoured increasing roles for the molecule in the development and growth of multicellular organisms. This review then focuses on this diversity of roles for ascorbate in both photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic tissues of higher plants, including fruits and seeds, as well as further functions the molecule may possess by looking at other species. The review also highlights one of the trade-offs of domestication, which has often reduced or diluted ascorbate content in the quest for increased fruit growth and yield, with unknown consequences for the corresponding functional diversity, particularly in terms of stress resistance and adaptive responses to the environment.

Dates and versions

hal-02650938 , version 1 (29-05-2020)



Noé Gest, Hélène Gautier, Rebecca Stevens. Ascorbate as seen through plant evolution: the rise of a successful molecule?. Journal of Experimental Botany, 2013, 64 (1), pp.33 - 53. ⟨10.1093/jxb/ers297⟩. ⟨hal-02650938⟩
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