Study reveals blueberry secrets

Nov 28, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Blueberries are one of our favourite fruits and no wonder—they’re tasty and they’re good for us. They’re rich in antioxidants, substances that can help reduce the natural cell damage in our aging bodies that can lead to cancer, heart disease and other ailments.

Now, a research team led by University of Victoria plant biologist Dr. Peter Constabel has become the first in the world to reveal—at a molecular genetic level—how ripen and produce antioxidants known as flavonoids.

“We already knew a lot about the chemical composition of blueberries, but until now very little about how flavonoid antioxidants are formed by the fruit as it ripens,” says Constabel. “This new knowledge has tremendous potential for BC’s blueberry industry and, ultimately, for our health.”

In the study, published recently in the international journal, Plant Physiology, the team used advanced genomics tools to identify a large number of genes in ripening blueberries. In the process, they quadrupled the number of newly discovered blueberry genes—information that is now available in public databases.

More specifically, the team identified genes that—as the berries ripen—are turned off during the molecular process that makes bitter (but healthy) compounds known as tannins and switched on when the berry’s trademark blue-purple flavonoid pigments are produced.

They also conducted a detailed chemical analysis of the flavonoids, and determined that the skin of blueberries contains the greatest variety and quantity of these health-promoting chemicals. And, working with researchers in Saskatchewan, they identified a plant hormone that appears to play a key role in blueberry ripening.

“Plant breeders can use our results to select for high antioxidant berry varieties and to try and get greater control over the ripening process,” says Constabel, noting that study partners included berry farmers and scientists from a range of government agencies in the agriculture, biotechnology and horticulture sectors.

Canada is the world’s third largest producer of high-bush blueberries. Ninety-eight per cent of the country’s $1-billion blueberry crop comes from BC where more than 700 farmers produce over 40 million kg of berries annually.

The study is the first of its kind to look at blueberries from a molecular and multidisciplinary perspective, says Constabel. “I don’t know of any other where all of these research tools have been applied in one study.”

Explore further: The origin of the language of life

Provided by University of Victoria

5 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Tropical blueberries are extreme super fruits

Apr 27, 2011

The first analysis of the healthful antioxidant content of blueberries that grow wild in Mexico, Central and South America concludes that some of these fruits have even more healthful antioxidants than the blueberries — ...

World's blueberries protected in unique, living collection

May 05, 2011

Familiar blueberries and their lesser-known wild relatives are safeguarded by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and curators at America's official blueberry genebank. The plants, collected from throughout the ...

Time is ripe for wine grapes

Nov 05, 2010

CSIRO researchers have discovered a new method growers could use to control when their grapes ripen, without affecting wine quality.

Southern farmers realize profits from highbush blueberries

Jun 30, 2008

Southern highbush blueberries are emerging as an important fruit crop in Georgia, but experienced farmers say the fruit can be a challenge to grow. To determine if the blueberry shows true promise as a profitable ...

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

Dec 19, 2014

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (3) Nov 29, 2011
The real secret is still hidden.

How did Willy Wonka turn Violet Boregard in to a giant blueberry?

http://www.youtub...cf_fZDc0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.