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Melatonin Represses Oil and Anthocyanin Accumulation in Seeds

Dong Li, Yuan Guo, Da Zhang, Shuangcheng He, Jingyun Gong, Haoli Ma, Xin Gao, Zhonghua Wang, Lixi Jiang, Xiaoling Dun, Shengwu Hu, Mingxun Chen

Plant Physiol

doi: 10.1104/pp.20.00117

Abstract

Previous studies have clearly demonstrated that the putative phytohormone melatonin functions directly in many aspects of plant growth and development. In Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), the role of melatonin in seed oil and anthocyanin accumulation, and corresponding underlying mechanisms, remain unclear. Here, we found that serotonin N-acetyltransferase1 (SNAT1) and caffeic acid O-methyltransferase (COMT) genes were ubiquitously and highly expressed and essential for melatonin biosynthesis in Arabidopsis developing seeds. We demonstrated that blocking endogenous melatonin biosynthesis by knocking out SNAT1 and/or COMT significantly increased oil and anthocyanin content of mature seeds. In contrast, enhancement of melatonin signaling by exogenous application of melatonin led to a significant decrease in levels of seed oil and anthocyanins. Further gene expression analysis through RNA sequencing and reverse-transcription quantitative PCR demonstrated that the expression of a series of important genes involved in fatty acid and anthocyanin accumulation was significantly altered in snat1-1 comt-1 developing seeds during seed maturation. We also discovered that SNAT1 and COMT significantly regulated the accumulation of both mucilage and proanthocyanidins in mature seeds. These results not only help us understand the function of melatonin and provide valuable insights into the complicated regulatory network controlling oil and anthocyanin accumulation in seeds, but also divulge promising gene targets for improvement of both oil and flavonoids in seeds of oil-producing crops and plants.