Plant Cell Reports

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 101–117 | Cite as

Artemisia annua L. and photoresponse: from artemisinin accumulation, volatile profile and anatomical modifications to gene expression

  • Ellen M. Lopes
  • Fábia Guimarães-Dias
  • Thália do S. S. Gama
  • Arthur L. Macedo
  • Alessandra L. Valverde
  • Marcela C. de Moraes
  • Ana Cristina A. de Aguiar-Dias
  • Humberto R. Bizzo
  • Marcio Alves-Ferreira
  • Eliana S. Tavares
  • Andrea F. MacedoEmail author
Original Article


Key message

Blue and yellow light affected metabolism and the morphology. Blue and red promote the DOXP/MEP pathway. ADS gene expression was increased in plants cultivated under blue, promoting artemisinin content.


Artemisinin-based combination therapies are the most effective treatment for highly lethal malaria. Artemisinin is produced in small quantities in the glandular trichomes of Artemisia annua L. Our aim was to evaluate the effect of light quality in A. annua cultivated in vitro under different light qualities, considering anatomical and morphological changes, the volatile composition, artemisinin content and the expression of two key enzymes for artemisinin biosynthesis. Yellow light is related to the increase in the number of glandular trichomes and this seemed to positively affect the molecular diversity in A. annua. Yellow light-stimulated glandular trichome frequency without triggered area enhancement, whereas blue light stimulated both parameters. Blue light enhanced the thickness of the leaf epidermis. The B-promoting effect was due to increased cell size and not to increased cell numbers. Green and yellow light positively influenced the volatile diversity in the plantlets. Nevertheless, blue and red light seemed to promote the DOXP/MEP pathway, while red light stimulates MVA pathway. Amorpha-4,11-diene synthase gene expression was significantly increased in plants cultivated under blue light, and not red light, promoting artemisinin content. Our results showed that light quality, more specifically blue and yellow light, positively affected secondary metabolism and the morphology of plantlets. It seemed that steps prior to the last one in the artemisinin biosynthesis pathway could be strongly influenced by blue light. Our work provides an alternative method to increase the amount of artemisinin production in A. annua without the use of transgenic plants, by the employment of blue light.


Artemisia annua Artemisinin Glandular trichome Light quality Volatile 



Artemisinin combination therapies


Amorpha-4,11-diene synthase


Monochromatic blue light




Cytochrome P450 monooxygenase




Deoxyribonucleoside 5′-triphosphate


2Cmethyl-d-erythritol-4-phosphate pathway




37% formaldehyde, glacial acetic acid, and 70% ethanol solution


Monochromatic green light


Glandular trichomes


Light-emitting diode


Linear retention indices


Murashige and Skoog


Mevalonic acid pathway


National Institute of Standards and Technology


Photosynthetically active radiation






Palisade parenchyma


Monochromatic red light


Scanning electron microscopy


Spongy parenchyma


T-shape trichome


White fluorescent light


Monochromatic yellow light



We thank Prof. Pedro Melillo (CPQBA/UNICAMP) for providing the seeds and Durvalina Felix-Whipps and Rosângela de Almeida Epifanio (in memoriam) for technical and scientific support.

Author contribution statement

AFM supervised the project; AFM, EST, MA-F, HRB, ACAA-D and ALV designed the experiments; EML, EST and AFM wrote the manuscript, with the participation of FG-D, ALM and contributions from all authors; tissue culture experiments were conducted by EML and AFM; morphological assays were conducted by AFM, EST, TSSG and ACAA-D; volatile assays were advised by HRB and conducted by EML and AFM; artemisinin analysis was conducted by ALM under the supervision of ALV and MCM; gene expression assays were conducted by EML and FG-D under the supervision of MA-F. All authors critically revised the manuscript and gave their final approval.


This work was supported by Foundation for Research Support of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) [E-26/111.372/2011]; National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) [Grant numbers 310474/2015-9, 159779/2013-8]; Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES); and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

299_2019_2476_MOESM1_ESM.docx (6.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 6278 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen M. Lopes
    • 1
  • Fábia Guimarães-Dias
    • 2
  • Thália do S. S. Gama
    • 3
  • Arthur L. Macedo
    • 4
    • 9
  • Alessandra L. Valverde
    • 4
  • Marcela C. de Moraes
    • 5
  • Ana Cristina A. de Aguiar-Dias
    • 6
  • Humberto R. Bizzo
    • 7
  • Marcio Alves-Ferreira
    • 2
  • Eliana S. Tavares
    • 8
  • Andrea F. Macedo
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Integrated Laboratory of Plant Biology (LIBV), Institute of Biosciences, Department of BotanyFederal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Laboratory of Plant Molecular Genetics (LGMV), Institute of Biology, Department of GeneticsFederal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratory of Plant Anatomy (LAV), Institute of Biosciences, Department of BotanyUniversity of São Paulo (USP)São PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratory of Natural Products (LaProMar), Institute of ChemistryFluminense Federal University (UFF)NiteróiBrazil
  5. 5.Laboratory of Chromatography and Screening Strategies, Institute of ChemistryFluminense Federal University (UFF)NiteróiBrazil
  6. 6.Laboratory of Plant Anatomy (LAV), Institute of Biosciences, Department of BotanyFederal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  7. 7.Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), Food AgroindustryRio de JaneiroBrazil
  8. 8.Laboratory of Plant Anatomy, Institute of Biology, Department of BotanyFederal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  9. 9.Post-Graduate Program in Pharmacy, Laboratory of Natural Products and Mass Spectrometry (LaPNEM), Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Food and NutritionFederal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS)Campo GrandeBrazil

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