Vitamin C is beneficial for plants too!


We all know vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and beneficial for humans to a great extent. Scientists from Japan have found that vitamin C is beneficial for plants too, as a sun block! Chloroplasts in plants have high levels of ascorbate (vitamin C) and this helps them overcome photoinhibition caused by extremely strong sunlight/light. The researchers have found the reason for high levels of ascorbate in the chloroplasts in plants. Ascorbate is synthesized in the mitochondria, the component which is the ‘power house’ of the cell. This study published in Nature Communications, shows that AtPHT4;4, a member of the phosphate transporter 4 family of Arabidopsis thaliana (a small flowering plant) works as a transporter of ascorbate in plants. This transporter facilitates the movement of ascorbate from the mitochondria, the site of synthesis, to the chloroplast helping the plants to use the high levels of ascorbate to protect them from light.

Image: The fluorescence signals of AtPHT4;4 and chlorophyll are shown in green and magenta, respectively.
Image: The fluorescence signals of AtPHT4;4 and chlorophyll are shown in green and magenta, respectively.

The AtPHT4;4 protein is expressed abundantly in the chloroplast envelope membrane. Knockout of this protein in plants results in decreased levels of ascorbate in the leaves and the heat dissipation process of excessive energy during photosynthesis is compromised. Hence, these proteins act as ‘sun-block’ in plants.

The original publication can be accessed here.

Disclaimer: This article does not reflect any personal views of the authors/editors.

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (; -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo ( and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.