Regulation of color transition in purple tea (Camellia sinensis)

Planta. 2019 Dec 18;251(1):35. doi: 10.1007/s00425-019-03328-7.


Comparative proteomics and metabolomics study of juvenile green, light purple and dark purple leaf to identify key proteins and metabolites that putatively govern color transition in Camellia sinensis. Color transition from juvenile green to dark purple leaf in Camellia sinensis is a complex process and thought to be regulated by an intricate balance of genes, proteins and metabolites expression. A molecular-level understanding of proteins and metabolites expression is needed to define metabolic process underpinning color transition in C. sinensis. Here, purple leaf growth of C. sinensis cultivar was divided into three developmental stages viz. juvenile green (JG), light purple (LP) and dark purple (DP) leaf. Scanning electron microscope (SEM) analysis revealed a clear morphological variation such as cell size, shape and texture as tea leaf undergoing color transition. Proteomic and metabolomic analyses displayed the temporal changes in proteins and metabolites that occur in color transition process. In total, 211 differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) were identified presumably involved in secondary metabolic processes particularly, flavonoids/anthocyanin biosynthesis, phytohormone regulation, carbon and nitrogen assimilation and photosynthesis, among others. Subcellular localization of three candidate proteins was further evaluated by their transient expression in planta. Interactome study revealed that proteins involved in primary metabolism, precursor metabolite, photosynthesis, phytohormones, transcription factor and anthocyanin biosynthesis were found to be interact directly or indirectly and thus, regulate color transition from JG to DP leaf. The present study not only corroborated earlier findings but also identified novel proteins and metabolites that putatively govern color transition in C. sinensis. These findings provide a platform for future studies that may be utilized for metabolic engineering/molecular breeding in an effort to develop more desirable traits.

Keywords: Leaf; Metabolomics; Proteomics; Secondary metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Anthocyanins / biosynthesis
  • Camellia sinensis / genetics
  • Camellia sinensis / metabolism*
  • Camellia sinensis / radiation effects*
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Cell Size
  • Chlorophyll / analysis
  • Color
  • Flavonoids / biosynthesis
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Light*
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Metabolomics
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Plant Leaves / cytology
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism*
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Proteomics
  • Secondary Metabolism
  • Tea
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcriptome


  • Anthocyanins
  • Flavonoids
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Plant Proteins
  • Tea
  • Transcription Factors
  • Chlorophyll
  • Carbon
  • Nitrogen