L-tartaric acid synthesis from vitamin C in higher plants

Seth DeBolt, Douglas R. Cook, Christopher M. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

169 Scopus citations


The biosynthetic pathway of L-tartaric acid, the form most commonly encountered in nature, and its catabolic ties to vitamin C, remain a challenge to plant scientists. Vitamin C and L-tartaric acid are plant-derived metabolites with intrinsic human value. In contrast to most fruits during development, grapes accumulate L-tartaric acid, which remains within the berry throughout ripening. Berry taste and the organoleptic properties and aging potential of wines are intimately linked to levels of L-tartaric acid present in the fruit, and those added during vinification. Elucidation of the reactions relating L-tartaric acid to vitamin C catabolism in the Vitaceae showed that they proceed via the oxidation of L-idonic acid, the proposed rate-limiting step in the pathway. Here we report the use of transcript and metabolite profiling to identify candidate cDNAs from genes expressed at developmental times and in tissues appropriate for L-tartaric acid biosynthesis in grape berries. Enzymological analyses of one candidate confirmed its activity in the proposed rate-limiting step of the direct pathway from vitamin C to tartaric acid in higher plants. Surveying organic acid content in Vitis and related genera, we have identified a non-tartrate-forming species in which this gene is deleted. This species accumulates in excess of three times the levels of vitamin C than comparably ripe berries of tartrate-accumulating species, suggesting that modulation of tartaric acid biosynthesis may provide a rational basis for the production of grapes rich in vitamin C.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5608-5613
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 4 2006


  • Biosynthesis
  • Idonate dehydrogenase
  • Organic acid
  • Transcriptional profiling
  • Vitis vinifera

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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