Integrated transcriptional and phytochemical analyses of the flavonoid biosynthesis pathway in Epimedium

Shaohua Zeng, Yilan Liu, Weiming Hu, Yongliang Liu, Xiaofei Shen, Ying Wang

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12 Scopus citations


Epimedium is a widely used traditional Chinese medicinal plant due to its high content of health-promoting components such as epimedin A, epimedin B, epimedin C, and icariin (hereafter designated as bioactive compounds); however, the biosynthesis of these bioactive compounds in Epimedium remains to be elucidated. In this study, E. sagitattum flavonoid genes, including three copies of chalcone synthase, two copies of dihydroflavonol 4-reductase, and a single copy of each of chalcone isomerase, flavanone 3 hydroxylase, flavonol synthase, and anthocyanidin synthase, have been isolated. In addition, several transcription factors involved in flavonol, anthocyanin, and proanthocyanin pathways, were identified from an Epimedium 454 EST database. Gene expression profiles and the levels of bioactive compounds in light-stressed E. pubescens leaves in response to phytohormones [abscisic acid (ABA), gibberellic acid (GA3), indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), salicylic acid (SA)] and sucrose were investigated. All bioactive compounds were significantly elevated by phytohormone and sucrose application except for epimedin B in SA-treated samples and epimedin C following GA3 and sucrose treatment. Our results suggest that phytohormone and sucrose treatments offer a method for promoting the accumulation of bioactive compounds in Epimedium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-365
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31270340, 31200225, and 30800624), the South China Botanical Garden Startup Fund (201039), the Knowledge Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSCX2-EW-J-20), and the CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams Project. We thank Dr. Alice Hayward for her help in polishing our manuscript. We also appreciate Dr. Xiang Gao for his help in experiment.


  • Epimedium
  • Flavonoid biosynthesis
  • Light stress
  • Phytohormone
  • Sucrose


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