Linking ascorbic acid production in Ribes nigrum with fruit development and changes in sources and sinks

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Background and Aims

Understanding the synthesis of ascorbic acid (L-AsA) in green tissues in model species has advanced considerably; here we focus on its production and accumulation in fruit. In particular, our aim is to understand the links between organs which may be sources of L-AsA (leaves) and those which accumulate it (fruits). The work presented here tests the idea that changes in leaf and fruit number influence the accumulation of L-AsA. The aim was to understand the importance of leaf tissue in the production of L-AsA and to determine how this might provide routes for the manipulation of fruit tissue L-AsA.


The experiments used Ribes nigrum (blackcurrant), predominantly in field experiments, where the source–sink relationship was manipulated to alter potential leaf L-AsA production and fruit growth and accumulation of L-AsA. These manipulations included reductions in reproductive capacity, by raceme removal, and the availability of assimilates by leaf removal and branch phloem girdling. Natural variation in fruit growth and fruit abscission is also described as this influences subsequent experimental design and the interpretation of L-AsA data.

Key Results

Results show that fruit L-AsA concentration is conserved but total yield of L-AsA per plant is dependent on a number of innate factors many of which relate to raceme attributes. Leaf removal and phloem girdling reduced fruit weight, and a combination of both reduced fruit yields further. It appears that around 50 % of assimilates utilized for fruit growth came from apical leaves, while between 20 and 30 % came from raceme leaves, with the remainder from ‘storage’.


Despite being able to manipulate leaf area and therefore assimilate availability and stored carbohydrates, along with fruit yields, rarely were effects on fruit L-AsA concentration seen, indicating fruit L-AsA production in Ribes was not directly coupled to assimilate supply. There was no supporting evidence that L-AsA production occurred predominantly in green leaf tissue followed by its transfer to developing fruits. It is concluded that L-AsA production occurs predominantly in the fruit of Ribes nigrum.

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