Hybridberries - interesting combination of parental lingonberry and bilberry

Hybridization and introgression are widespread phenomena in natural plant populations. It has been estimated that as much as 30–70% of all flowering plant species would have originated via hybridization. Natural hybridization also plays a potentially significant role in the evolution of novel secondary metabolites and in the formation of new combinations of existing secondary compounds in plants. Thereby, hybridization has also had an important role, for instance, in the evolution of plant defense.

A team of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Oulu investigated the content of phenolic compounds in berries and flowers of Vaccinium×intermedium Ruthe, which is a rare natural hybrid between bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) and lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea L.). The berries and flowers of the hybrid showed characteristics inherited from both parent species in the distribution and contents of phenolic compounds. Bilberry is known as one of the richest sources of anthocyanins and to have a profile of 15 major forms combining cyanidin, delphinidin, petunidin, peonidin and malvidin with galactose, glucose and arabinose. Lingonberry contains only cyanidin glycosides. Hybrid berries contained all bilberry anthocyanins with pronounced cyanidin content. With regard to proanthocyanidins and flavonol glycosides, the hybrid inherited diverse profiles combining those of both parental species. The distribution of hydroxycinnamic acids was quite uniform in all studied berries. Of the identified compounds, 30 were detected in lingonberry, 46 in bilberry, 53 in hybrid berries and 38 in hybrid flowers. Hence, compared with the parent species, hybrid berries possess a more diverse profile of phenolic compounds and, therefore, can offer interesting material for breeding purposes.

The researchers concluded that the hybrid bilberry has inherited the characteristics of the profiles of phenolic compounds from both parent species. The intermediate characteristics of the parent species were detected in all groups of phenolic compounds. What makes the hybrid berries interesting is that, concerning anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin profiles, they have inherited the special characteristics of both parents, i.e. diverse anthocyanin profile from bilberry and proanthocyanidin profile from lingonberry. Despite this more diverse profile, the levels of proanthocyanidins were nevertheless lower in the hybrid berries than in lingonberry. Compared with the parent species, the hybrid berries possess a more diverse composition of phenolic compounds and may therefore offer interesting material for breeding purposes.

For further information, please contact Researcher Anja Lätti, email: anja.latti@uef.fi or Docent Laura Jaakola, PhD, email: laura.jaakola@oulu.fi

Original article: Lätti AK, Riihinen KR, Jaakola L: Phenolic compounds in berries and flowers of a natural hybrid between bilberry and lingonberry (Vaccinium×intermedium Ruthe). Phytochemistry Volume 72, Issue 8, June 2011, Pages 810-815.  Available for viewing online here



Artikkelin kirjoitusvuosi: 2011

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