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How plant carotenoid production is controlled

Researchers have gained a deeper understanding of how plant pigments linked to agricultural productivity are regulated by temperature and light.
How plant carotenoid production is controlled
Carotenoids are plant pigments that influence biomass production, since they are involved in processes like growth, stress response, hormone synthesis and photosynthesis. In the context of improving crop yields in a changing environment, there is a need for more information on how carotenoids are regulated by light and temperature.

The EU-funded SMARTPLANT (Environmental control of carotenoid biosynthesis: A novel strategy to improve photosynthetic capacity) project sought to understand these regulatory pathways over a range of light and temperature conditions experienced in nature. Researchers used both experimental and modelling approaches to show that gene transcription regulators called phytochrome interacting factors (PIFs) are in control of carotenoid production.

More specifically, they found that PIF-HY5 (long hypocotyl 5) makes sure that photosynthesis continues at lower temperatures. They also confirmed that PIFs repress carotenoid production in shaded environments, where there is more red light than in full sun.

Furthermore, PIF-HY5 was found not to antagonise PIF control of carotenoids under shade conditions. Instead, researchers demonstrated that a transcription co-factor called PIF-PAR1 (phytochrome rapidly regulated 1) fulfilled this role in shaded environments.

This work has led to high-impact factor academic publications and international research collaborations. The insights gained may help researchers improve the photosynthetic capacity of crops in support of the European Strategic Research Agenda aimed at addressing climate change.

Related information


Life Sciences


Carotenoid, plant pigments, photosynthesis, SMARTPLANT, PIF-HY5, shaded environments
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