Expression of hydroxytyrosol and oleuropein biosynthetic genes are correlated with metabolite accumulation during fruit development in olive, Olea europaea, cv. Koroneiki

Plant Physiol Biochem. 2018 Jul;128:41-49. doi: 10.1016/j.plaphy.2018.05.004. Epub 2018 May 5.


Olive tree is one of the most valuable crops cultivated for its oil that is rich in antioxidants. The beneficial effects of oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol (HT), the most abundant and the most powerful antioxidant respectively, as well as tyrosol, HT's precursor molecule, are well studied however their biosynthetic pathways are not yet clarified. The transcriptome analysis of the young olive fruit, cultivar "Koroneiki", revealed transcripts of all the enzymes used to reconstitute the biosynthetic pathway of tyrosol and HT in other organisms. We also identified transcripts of the genes that encode for enzymes involved in the secologanin biosynthesis, oleuropein's precursor molecule. Following the transcriptome analysis, the relative expression of the transcripts was monitored during fruit development and compared to the concentration of the 3 metabolites they synthesize at the same developmental stages. The highest expression levels, accompanied by the maximum concentration of the three metabolites, was found in the young olive fruit. The correlation between the expression profile and the metabolites' concentration indicates that the transcripts were correctly identified and the synthesis of the compounds is regulated at a transcriptional level. Interestingly, HT showed a sudden increment in the final developmental stage of the black mature fruit that is attributed to oleuropein catabolism.

Keywords: Fruit developmental stages; Hydroxytyrosol; Koroneiki; Olea europaea; Oleuropein; Phenolics; RNA sequencing.

MeSH terms

  • Fruit / genetics
  • Fruit / growth & development*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology*
  • Genes, Plant / physiology*
  • Iridoids / metabolism*
  • Olea / genetics
  • Olea / metabolism*
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol / metabolism


  • Iridoids
  • 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethanol
  • oleuropein
  • Phenylethyl Alcohol