The Effect of Maturity Status on Biochemical Composition, Antioxidant Activity, and Anthocyanin Biosynthesis Gene Expression in a Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) Cultivar with Red Flowers, Yellow Peel, and Pinkish Arils

  • Rekha Attanayake
  • Ranil Rajapaksha
  • Palitha Weerakkody
  • Pradeepa C. G. BandaranayakeEmail author


Pomegranate (Punica granatum L.) has widely been used as a fruit and in folk medicine since ancient civilizations in the world. It is now known that bioactive compounds present in pomegranates attribute to its therapeutic potential. Harvesting at the correct maturity stage is one of the key factors deciding the quality of harvest for consumption in fresh or value-added forms. Identification of the correct maturity stage (harvesting index) is particularly difficult for cultivars having yellowish peel and pinkish arils (sarcotesta). We studied the changes in total phenolic content (TPC), antioxidant activity (AOX), punicalagin α and β contents, color indices, total soluble solids (TSS), and expression of anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway genes from flowering to harvesting in the pomegranate cultivar Nimali, having red flowers, yellow peels, and pinkish arils at maturity over two growing seasons. Interestingly, there was no seasonal variation observed in any of the parameters over two cultivation seasons. Although the β punicalagin content did not change, the TPC, AOX, punicalagin α contents in both peel and arils gradually decreased from flowering to maturity. Though the TPC of both peels and arils, AOX and total punicalagin content of peel did not change significantly 140 days after flower initiation, the TPC and the total punicalagin of arils reached a stable level at 160 days. The TSS in both peels and arils increased significantly with the maturity having the highest values at 180 days. The peel color changed from green to yellow with maturity with a significant increase in l* and b* values and significant decrease in a* value. Nevertheless, the aril color changed from pale white to pink with the maturity with significant reduction of l* and b* values and significant increase of a* value. Changes in pomegranate dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR), flavanone 3-hydroxylase (F3H), and leucoanthocyanidin dioxygenase (anthocyanidin synthase-ANS) gene expression in Nimali arils correlated with its color changes during maturity. These findings support to identify the harvesting index of Nimali ensuring the maximum nutritional and health benefits of pomegranate flower, arils, and peels for different downstream uses.


Punica granatum Total phenolic content Antioxidant activity Punicalagin Anthocyanin 



Authors wish to thank National Research Council of Sri Lanka for the financial support (NRC Grant 12/113). Further, we thank the staff of the Agricultural Biotechnology Center, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, especially Ms. D Halangoda and the staff of the Department of Agriculture, Kalpitiya Research Station for the technical assistance.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

344_2018_9909_MOESM1_ESM.docx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 23 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agricultural Biotechnology Centre, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of PeradeniyaPeradeniyaSri Lanka
  2. 2.Postgraduate Institute of AgricultureUniversity of PeradeniyaPeradeniyaSri Lanka
  3. 3.Department of Crop Science, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity of PeradeniyaPeradeniyaSri Lanka

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