Difference in capsaicinoid biosynthesis gene expression in the pericarp reveals elevation of capsaicinoid contents in chili peppers (Capsicum chinense)

Yoshiyuki Tanaka, Fumihiro Nakashima, Erasmus Kirii, Tanjuro Goto, Yuichi Yoshida, Ken ichiro Yasuba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Key message: This research reveals that the up-regulated expression of multiple capsaicinoid biosynthetic genes in pericarp tissue leads to the elevation of total capsaicinoid content in chili pepper fruit. Abstract: Capsaicinoids are health-functional compounds that are produced uniquely in chili pepper fruits. A high capsaicinoid level is one of the major parameters determining the commercial quality and health-promoting properties of chili peppers. To investigate the mechanisms responsible for its high contents, we compared an extremely pungent cultivar ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Yellow’ (MY) with other cultivars of different pungency levels (Fushimi-amanaga, Takanotsume, Red Habanero). Capsaicinoid concentrations were markedly higher in MY fruit (23.9 mg/g DW) than in other pungent cultivars including ‘Red Habanero’ (HB) fruit (14.3 mg/g DW). Comparative analysis of MY and HB reveals that both cultivars accumulated similar capsaicinoid concentrations in the placental septum, with that in the HB pericarp (1.8 mg/g DW) being markedly lower than that in the placental septum (69.1 mg/g DW). The capsaicinoid concentration in HB fruit is dependent on the placental septum, as reported in other accessions. Therefore, even though placental septum tissue contains high capsaicinoid concentrations, those in the pericarp and seeds attenuated its total content. In contrast, the MY pericarp exhibited a markedly higher concentration (23.2 mg/g DW). A qRT-PCR analysis revealed that multiple capsaicinoid biosynthetic pathway genes (Pun1, pAMT, KAS, and BCAT) were strongly up-regulated in placental septum of pungent cultivars. The genes were expressed exclusively in the MY pericarp, but were barely detected in the pericarps of other pungent cultivars. Collectively, the present study indicates that the up-regulated expression of these genes not only in placental septum but also in pericarp plays an important role in driving capsaicinoid accumulation in the whole fruit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-279
Number of pages13
JournalPlant Cell Reports
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Capsaicinoid
  • Chili pepper
  • Gene expression
  • Pungency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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