Phenolic acid production is more effectively enhanced than tanshinone production by methyl jasmonate in Salvia miltiorrhiza hairy roots

Original Article


Phenolic acids and tanshinones are two groups of pharmaceutical components present in Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge. Methyl jasmonate (MeJA) has been reported to influence the accumulation of both phenolic acids and tanshinones in S. miltiorrhiza hairy roots. However, there is currently a lack of information regarding the comparison of how these two groups of bioactive compounds in S. miltiorrhiza respond to MeJA under the same conditions. In the present study, the effect of 100 µM MeJA on the biosynthesis of phenolic acids and tanshinones in S. miltiorrhiza hairy roots was investigated. The results showed that MeJA dramatically induced the accumulation of five different phenolic acids, especially rosmarinic acid and salvianolic acid B, which reached their highest contents at day 3 (20.3 mg/g DW, 1.5-fold of control) and day 6 (47.49 mg/g DW, 2.5-fold of control), respectively. The total production of phenolic acids was induced by as much as 3.3-fold of the control (day 9 after treatment), reaching 357.5 mg/L at day 6. However, tanshinone I was almost unaffected by MeJA treatment, and the accumulation of tanshinone IIA was inhibited. Furthermore, cryptotanshinone and dihydrotanshinone I were moderately induced by MeJA. The gene expression results indicated that MeJA probably induced the whole pathways, especially the tyrosine-derived pathway and the methylerythritol phosphate pathway, and finally resulted in the increased production of these metabolites. This study will help us to further understand how the different biosynthetic mechanisms of phenolic acids and tanshinones respond to MeJA and provide a reference for the future selection of elicitors for application to improving the production of targeted compounds.


Salvia miltiorrhiza Bunge Hairy roots MeJA Phenolic acids Tanshinones Regulation 



Hydroxycinnamate coenzyme A ligase


Abscisic acid


Cinnamic acid 4-hydroxylase






Dihydrotanshinone I


Dry weight


1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate reductoisomerase


1-Deoxy-d-xylulose 5-phosphate synthase




Fresh weight


Gibberellic acid


Geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase


3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl CoA reductase


4-Hydroxyphenylpyruvate reductase




Copalyl diphosphate synthase


Kaurene synthase-like


Methyl jasmonate


Methylerythritol phosphate




Phenylalanine ammonia-lyase


Photodiode array detector


Polyethylene glycol


Rosmarinic acid


Rosmarinic acid synthase




Quantitative real-time PCR


Salicylic acid


Salvianolic acid B


Tanshinone I


Tanshinone IIA


Transfer DNA


Tyrosine aminotransferase



This work was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of Zhejiang Provincial (No. LZ16H280001), National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 81373908 and 81673536), The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Author contributions

ZongSuo Liang and YanFang Sun conceived and designed the research. Bingcong Xing conducted experiments and analyzed the data. Bingcong Xing and DongFeng Yang wrote the manuscript. Lin Liu contributed advice and revised. Ruilian Han contributed new reagents and advice.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS & MWRYanglingChina
  2. 2.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Life Sciences, Key Laboratory of Plant Secondary Metabolism and Regulation of Zhejiang ProvinceZhejiang Sci-Tech UniversityHangzhouChina
  4. 4.College of Life SciencesNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina

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