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  1. Nearly 90% of flowering plants depend on animals for reproduction. One of the main rewards plants offer to pollinators for visitation is nectar. Nesocodon mauritianus (Campanulaceae) produces a blood-red nectar that has been proposed to serve as a visual attractant for pollinator visitation. Here, we show that the nectar’s red color is derived from a previously undescribed alkaloid termed nesocodin. The first nectar produced is acidic and pale yellow in color, but slowly becomes alkaline before taking on its characteristic red color. Three enzymes secreted into the nectar are either necessary or sufficient for pigment production, including a carbonic anhydrase that increases nectar pH, an aryl-alcohol oxidase that produces a pigment precursor, and a ferritin-like catalase that protects the pigment from degradation by hydrogen peroxide. Our findings demonstrate how these three enzymatic activities allow for the condensation of sinapaldehyde and proline to form a pigment with a stable imine bond. We subsequently verified that synthetic nesocodin is indeed attractive to Phelsuma geckos, the most likely pollinators of Nesocodon . We also identify nesocodin in the red nectar of the distantly related and hummingbird-visited Jaltomata herrerae and provide molecular evidence for convergent evolution of this trait. This work cumulatively identifies amore »convergently evolved trait in two vertebrate-pollinated species, suggesting that the red pigment is selectively favored and that only a limited number of compounds are likely to underlie this type of adaptation.« less
  2. Abstract Nectar is a primary reward mediating plant–animal mutualisms to improve plant fitness and reproductive success. Four distinct trichomatic nectaries develop in cotton (Gossypium hirsutum), one floral and three extrafloral, and the nectars they secrete serve different purposes. Floral nectar attracts bees for promoting pollination, while extrafloral nectar attracts predatory insects as a means of indirect protection from herbivores. Cotton therefore provides an ideal system for contrasting mechanisms of nectar production and nectar composition between different nectary types. Here, we report the transcriptome and ultrastructure of the four cotton nectary types throughout development and compare these with the metabolomes of secreted nectars. Integration of these datasets supports specialization among nectary types to fulfill their ecological niche, while conserving parallel coordination of the merocrine-based and eccrine-based models of nectar biosynthesis. Nectary ultrastructures indicate an abundance of rough endoplasmic reticulum positioned parallel to the cell walls and a profusion of vesicles fusing to the plasma membranes, supporting the merocrine model of nectar biosynthesis. The eccrine-based model of nectar biosynthesis is supported by global transcriptomics data, which indicate a progression from starch biosynthesis to starch degradation and sucrose biosynthesis and secretion. Moreover, our nectary global transcriptomics data provide evidence for novel metabolic processesmore »supporting de novo biosynthesis of amino acids secreted in trace quantities in nectars. Collectively, these data demonstrate the conservation of nectar-producing models among trichomatic and extrafloral nectaries.« less
  3. Summary

    The black nectar produced byMelianthusflowers is thought to serve as a visual attractant to bird pollinators, but the chemical identity and synthesis of the black pigment are unknown.

    A combination of analytical biochemistry, transcriptomics, proteomics, and enzyme assays was used to identify the pigment that givesMelianthusnectar its black color and how it is synthesized. Visual modeling of pollinators was also used to infer a potential function of the black coloration.

    High concentrations of ellagic acid and iron give the nectar its dark black color, which can be recapitulated through synthetic solutions containing only ellagic acid and iron(iii). The nectar also contains a peroxidase that oxidizes gallic acid to form ellagic acid.In vitroreactions containing the nectar peroxidase, gallic acid, hydrogen peroxide, and iron(iii) fully recreate the black color of the nectar. Visual modeling indicates that the black color is highly conspicuous to avian pollinators within the context of the flower.

    Melianthusnectar contains a natural analog of iron‐gall ink, which humans have used since at least medieval times. This pigment is derived from an ellagic acid‐Fe complex synthesized in the nectar and is likely involved in the attraction of passerine pollinators endemic to southern Africa.


    Nectar volume and sugar composition are key determinants of the strength of plant–pollinator mutualisms. The main nectar sugars are sucrose, glucose and fructose, which can vary widely in ratio and concentration across species.Brassica spp. produce a hexose‐dominant nectar (high in the monosaccharides glucose and fructose) with very low levels of the disaccharide sucrose. Cell wall invertases (CWINVs) catalyze the irreversible hydrolysis of sucrose into glucose and fructose in the apoplast. We found thatBrCWINV4Ais highly expressed in the nectaries ofBrassica rapa. Moreover, abrcwinv4anull mutant: (i) has greatly reduced CWINV activity in the nectaries; (ii) produces a sucrose‐rich nectar; but (iii) with significantly less volume. These results definitively demonstrate that CWINV activity is not only essential for the production of a hexose‐rich nectar, but also support a hypothetical model of nectar secretion in which its hydrolase activity is required for maintaining a high intracellular‐to‐extracellular sucrose ratio that facilitates the continuous export of sucrose into the nectary apoplast. The extracellular hydrolysis of each sucrose into two hexoses by BrCWINV4A also likely creates the osmotic potential required for nectar droplet formation. These results cumulatively indicate that modulation of CWINV activity can at least partially account for naturally occurring differences in nectar volume and sugarmore »composition. Finally, honeybees prefer nectars with some sucrose, but wild‐typeB. rapaflowers were much more heavily visited than flowers ofbrcwinv4a, suggesting that the potentially attractive sucrose‐rich nectar ofbrcwinv4acould not compensate for its low volume.

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    Floral nectar is a sugary solution produced by nectaries to attract and reward pollinators. Nectar metabolites, such as sugars, are synthesized within the nectary during secretion from both pre‐stored and direct phloem‐derived precursors. In addition to sugars, nectars contain nitrogenous compounds such as amino acids; however, little is known about the role(s) of nitrogen (N) compounds in nectary function. In this study, we investigated N metabolism inCucurbita pepo(squash) floral nectaries in order to understand how various N‐containing compounds are produced and determine the role of N metabolism in nectar secretion. The expression and activity of key enzymes involved in primary N assimilation, including nitrate reductase (NR) and alanine aminotransferase (AlaAT), were induced during secretion inC. peponectaries. Alanine (Ala) accumulated to about 35% of total amino acids in nectaries and nectar during peak secretion; however, alteration of vascular nitrate supply had no impact on Ala accumulation during secretion, suggesting that nectar(y) amino acids are produced by precursors other than nitrate. In addition, nitric oxide (NO) is produced from nitrate and nitrite, at least partially by NR, in nectaries and nectar. Hypoxia‐related processes are induced in nectaries during secretion, including lactic acid and ethanolic fermentation. Finally, treatments that alter nitrate supplymore »affect levels of hypoxic metabolites, nectar volume and nectar sugar composition. The induction of N metabolism inC. peponectaries thus plays an important role in the synthesis and secretion of nectar sugar.

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