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Phytochemistry. 2007 Mar;68(6):875-85. Epub 2007 Jan 25.

Species-specific and leaf-age dependent effects of ultraviolet radiation on two Brassicaceae.

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  • 1Universität Würzburg, Julius-von-Sachs Institut für Biowissenschaften, Julius-von-Sachs Platz 3, D-97082 Würzburg, Germany.


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation affects the chemical composition of a plant. Since young leaves are of higher value due to their increased photosynthetic activity, for these a more efficient protection and thus stronger responses to a short-term exposure to natural radiation including or excluding UV-A plus UV-B radiation ("+UV" vs. "-UV") were expected than for old leaves. Nutrients and characteristic secondary metabolites of two species of Brassicaceae were analysed after two days exposure in foil-tents with different UV filtering qualities. Contents of water, carbon, nitrogen and soluble protein were found to be affected by both UV and leaf-age in Sinapis alba L. but mainly by leaf-age in Nasturtium officinale L. Glucosinolates and myrosinases, both partners of the defence system of Brassicaceae, responded highly species-specific to UV exposure. Moreover, leaf-age mainly affected total glucosinolate concentrations in S. alba, but myrosinase activities in N. officinale. The most pronounced response to UV was found in the accumulation of flavonoids which are needed to shield the leaf interior against UV. In S. alba, relative contents of quercetin flavonols increased at the expense of kaempferols in +UV exposed leaves. In N. officinale, total flavonoid quantities were 10-fold lower in -UV exposed young leaves compared to S. alba, and flavonoid accumulation was induced by UV specifically in old leaves. Hydroxycinnamic acid concentrations were not affected in both species. In total, these herbaceous species showed a highly species-specific and age-dependent plasticity in response to short-term exposure to UV which is discussed with respect to their defence strategies.

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