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Phytochemistry. 2006 Jun;67(12):1185-95. Epub 2006 Jun 14.

Differential distribution of tocopherols and tocotrienols in photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic tissues.

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Research Group of Plant Physiology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.


Tocopherols and tocotrienols are vitamin E compounds, differing only in the saturation state of the isoprenoid side chain. Tocopherol biosynthesis, physiology and distribution have been studied in detail. Tocopherols have been found in many different plant species, and plant tissues. In contrast, comparatively little is known about the physiology and distribution of tocotrienols. These compounds appear to be considerably less widespread in the plant kingdom. In this study 80 different plant species were analysed for the presence of tocotrienols. Twenty-four species were found to contain significant amounts of tocotrienols. No taxonomic relation was apparent among the 16 dicotyledonous species that were found to contain tocotrienol. Monocotyledonous species (eight species) belonged either to the Poaceae (six species) or the Aracaceae (two species). A more detailed analysis of tocotrienol accumulation revealed the presence of tocotrienols in several non-photosynthetic tissues and organs, i.e. seeds, fruits and in latex, in concentrations up to 2000 ppm. No tocotrienols could be detected in mature photosynthetic tissues. However, we found the transient accumulation of low levels of tocotrienols in the young coleoptiles of plant species whose seeds contained tocotrienols. No measurable tocotrienol biosynthesis was apparent in coleoptiles, or in chloroplasts isolated from such coleoptiles. In line with these results, we found that tocotrienol accumulation in coleoptiles was not associated with chloroplasts. Based on our data, we conclude that tocotrienols may be transiently present in photosynthetically active tissues, however, it remains to be proven whether the tocotrienols are biosynthesised in such tissues, or imported from elsewhere in the plant.

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