Ascorbate system in plant development

J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1994 Aug;26(4):407-19. doi: 10.1007/BF00762782.


By using lycorine, a specific inhibitor of ascorbate biosynthesis, it was possible to demonstrate that plant cells consume a high quantity of ascorbate (AA). The in vivo metabolic reactions utilizing ascorbate are the elimination of H2O2 by ascorbate peroxidase and the hydroxylation of proline residues present in the polypeptide chains by means of peptidyl-proline hydroxylase. Ascorbate acts in the cell metabolism as an electron donor, and consequently ascorbate free radical (AFR) is continuously produced. AFR can be reconverted to AA by means of AFR reductase or can undergo spontaneous disproportion, thus generating dehydroascorbic acid (DHA). During cell division and cell expansion ascorbate consumption is more or less the same; however, the AA/DHA ratio is 6-10 during cell division and 1-3 during cell expansion. This ratio depends essentially on the different AFR reductase activity in these cells. In meristematic cells AFR reductase is very high, and consequently a large amount of AFR is reduced to AA and a small amount of AFR undergoes disproportionation; in expanding cells the AFR reductase activity is lower, and therefore AFR is massively disproportionated, thus generating a large quantity of DHA. Since the transition from cell division to cell expansion is marked by a large drop of AFR reductase activity in the ER, it is suggested here that AFR formed in this compartment may be involved in the enlargement of the ER membranes and provacuole acidification. DHA is a toxic compound for the cell metabolism and as such the cell has various strategies to counteract its effects: (i) meristematic cells, having an elevated AFR reductase, prevent large DHA production, limiting the quantity of AFR undergoing disproportionation (ii) Expanding cells, which contain a lower AFR reductase, are, however, provided with a developed vacuolar system and segregate the toxic DHA in the vacuole. (iii) Chloroplast strategy against DHA toxicity is efficient DHA reduction to AA using GSH as electron donor. This strategy is usually poorly utilized by the surrounding cytoplasm. DHA reduction does play an important role at one point in the life of the plant, that is, during the early stage of seed germination. The dry seed does not store ascorbate, but contains DHA, and several DHA-reducing proteins are detectable. In this condition, DHA reduction is necessary to form a limited AA pool in the seed for the metabolic requirements of the beginning of germination. After 30-40 h ascorbate ex novo synthesis starts, DHA reduction declines until a single isoform remains, as is typical in the roots, stem, and leaves of seedlings.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids*
  • Ascorbate Peroxidases
  • Ascorbic Acid / biosynthesis
  • Ascorbic Acid / physiology*
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid / metabolism
  • Free Radicals
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Peroxidases / metabolism
  • Phenanthridines / pharmacology
  • Plant Development*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase / metabolism


  • Amaryllidaceae Alkaloids
  • Free Radicals
  • Phenanthridines
  • Plant Proteins
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Peroxidases
  • Ascorbate Peroxidases
  • Procollagen-Proline Dioxygenase
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • monodehydroascorbate reductase (NADH)
  • lycorine
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Dehydroascorbic Acid