Halophytes can be used as a crop on salinized agricultural land. Suaeda japonica Makino is an annual highly salt-tolerant plant, that inhabits salt marshes in the Ariake Sea, Japan. Accompanying growth, leaves of S. japonica change from green to red with accumulation of a red pigment, betacyanin. To elucidate the physiological roles of betacyanin in S. japonica, we tested the antioxidant capacity of purified betacyanin and leaf extracts containing different levels of betacyanin under oxidative-stress conditions. The assay with 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) showed that the purifi ed betacyanin had antioxidant activity. H2O2-induced protein oxidation of the leaf extracts was prevented by the addition of betacyanin. The antioxidant enzyme activity decreased in the red leaves, but the content of malondialdehyde (MDA), an oxidative stress marker in the red leaves was nearly the same as that in the green leaves. Betacyanin synthesis was induced under photoinhibition-inducible conditions of low temperature and high-intensity light. These results indicate that betacyanin serves as an antioxidant in S. japonica and that the leaf reddening of this species is a key adaptive strategy for coping with the harsh environmental conditions in salt marshes of the Ariake Sea.
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