A magic red coat on the surface of young leaves: anthocyanins distributed in trichome layer protect Castanopsis fissa leaves from photoinhibition

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The presence of anthocyanins in young leaves plays an important role in mitigation against photodamage and allows leaves to grow and develop normally. Many studies have reported that foliar anthocyanins are distributed within the vacuoles of mesophyll cells, so we explored the novel defence style of anthocyanin-coated young leaves of Castanopsis fissa, a dominant subtropical forest tree species, via removable trichomes. Anthocyanins were distributed in C. fissa leaf trichomes, which produced a red coating for the young leaves. As young leaves developed and then matured, the thickness and density of the anthocyanin trichomes progressively decreased, the coating finally disappearing, allowing greater utilization of light by mature leaves. In addition to anthocyanins, the trichomes contained a remarkably high amount of phenolics, which enable the red coating to be more efficient in screening ultraviolet light. Compared with mature leaves, the young leaves exhibited lower photosynthetic ability, which was attributable to the reduced chlorophyll and Rubisco contents. Removal of the red coating had little effect on the photosynthetic capacity of young leaves. However, the young leaves without the coating suffered greater light-induced photoinhibition due to greater excess light entering the chloroplast and the production of H2O2. Our results suggest that the anthocyanin coating is photoprotective and this anthocyanin defence style may be a metabolically cost-effective way of adjusting the anthocyanin content in response to demand.

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