Henry, A.; Chopra, S.; Clark, D.; Lynch, J.


Functional Plant Biology. 39(3), 255-265 (2012)


Foliar anthocyanin production is frequently induced by phosphorus deficiency, but the adaptive significance of increased anthocyanin production under P stress, if any, remains unknown. In this study we hypothesised that if anthocyanin expression is an adaptive response to mitigate the stress effects of P deficiency, genotypes with constitutive anthocyanin expression would have greater tolerance to P stress than low anthocyanin-producing genotypes. Four studies were conducted in greenhouse, outdoor chamber and field conditions to compare genetically similar maize and coleus plants with contrasting anthocyanin accumulation (i.e. 'red-leafed' vs 'green-leafed'). In low-P treatments, anthocyanin production did not consistently result in greater photosynthesis or biomass. In coleus, red-leafed phenotypes showed lower chlorophyll a/b ratios suggesting photoprotection by anthocyanins against degradation of light harvesting complex proteins. However, the opposite trend was observed in maize, where red-leafed phenotypes showed greater chlorophyll a/b ratios and lower qP (oxidation state of PSII). Based on results from the various treatments and growth conditions of this study, it could not be concluded that high foliar anthocyanin production confers a general functional advantage under low-P stress. More research comparing inducible vs constitutive production may help elucidate the role of anthocyanin biosynthesis in P deficiency responses.