Carrot (Daucus carota) is a biannual plant that accumulates massive amounts of carotenoid pigments in the storage root. Although the root of carrot plants was white before domestication, intensive breeding generated the currently known carotenoid-rich varieties, including the widely popular orange carrots that accumulate very high levels of the pro-vitamin A carotenoids β-carotene and, to a lower extent, α-carotene. Recent studies have shown that the developmental program responsible for the accumulation of these health-promoting carotenes in underground roots can be completely altered when roots are exposed to light. Illuminated root sections do not enlarge as much as dark-grown roots, and they contain chloroplasts with high levels of lutein instead of the β-carotene-rich chromoplasts found in underground roots. Analysis of carotenoid gene expression in roots either exposed or not to light has contributed to better understand the contribution of developmental and environmental cues to the root carotenoid profile. In this review, we summarize the main conclusions of this work in the context of our current knowledge of how carotenoid biosynthesis and accumulation is regulated at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels in carrot roots and other model systems for the study of plant carotenogenesis such as Arabidopsis de-etiolation and tomato fruit ripening.
Keywords: Biosynthesis; Carotenoid; Carrot; Development; Gene expression; Light; Regulation; Root.
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