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Article|07 Feb 2018|OPEN
Metabolic analyses reveal different mechanisms of leaf color change in two purple-leaf tea plant (Camellia sinensis L.) cultivars
Jiazhi Shen1 , Zhongwei Zou2 , Xuzhou Zhang3 , Lin Zhou1 , Yuhua Wang1 , Wanping Fan1 , and Xujun Zhu,1 ,
1College of Horticulture, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, China
2Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada
3Bureau of Rural Economic Development of Huangdao District, Qingdao, Shangdong 266400, China
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,

Horticulture Research 5,
Article number: 7 (2018)
Views: 7335

Received: 14 Jul 2017
Revised: 18 Oct 2017
Accepted: 24 Nov 2017
Published online: 07 Feb 2018


Purple-leaf tea plants, as anthocyanin-rich cultivars, are valuable materials for manufacturing teas with unique colors or flavors. In this study, a new purple-leaf cultivar “Zixin” (“ZX”) was examined, and its biochemical variation and mechanism of leaf color change were elucidated. The metabolomes of leaves of “ZX” at completely purple, intermediately purple, and completely green stages were analyzed using ultra-performance liquid chromatography quadrupole time of flight mass spectrometry (UPLC-QTOF-MS). Metabolites in the flavonoid biosynthetic pathway remained at high levels in purple leaves, whereas intermediates of porphyrin and chlorophyll metabolism and carotenoid biosynthesis exhibited high levels in green leaves. In addition, fatty acid metabolism was more active in purple leaves, and steroids maintained higher levels in green leaves. Saponin, alcohol, organic acid, and terpenoid-related metabolites also changed significantly during the leaf color change process. Furthermore, the substance changes between “ZX” and “Zijuan” (a thoroughly studied purple-leaf cultivar) were also compared. The leaf color change in “Zijuan” was mainly caused by a decrease in flavonoids/anthocyanins. However, a decrease in flavonoids/anthocyanins, an enhancement of porphyrin, chlorophyll metabolism, carotenoid biosynthesis, and steroids, and a decrease in fatty acids synergistically caused the leaf color change in “ZX”. These findings will facilitate comprehensive research on the regulatory mechanisms of leaf color change in purple-leaf tea cultivars.