Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Does your Salad Know What Time it is?

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Managing vegetables’ ‘internal clocks’ postharvest could have health benefits.

Does your salad know what time it is? It may be healthier for you if it does, according to new research from Rice University and the University of California at Davis.

“Vegetables and fruits don’t die the moment they are harvested,” said Rice biologist Janet Braam, the lead researcher on a new study this week in Current Biology. “They respond to their environment for days, and we found we could use light to coax them to make more cancer-fighting antioxidants at certain times of day.” Braam is professor and chair of Rice’s Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

Braam’s team simulated day-night cycles of light and dark to control the internal clocks of fruits and vegetables, including cabbage, carrots, squash and blueberries. The research is a follow-up to her team’s award-winning 2012 study of the ways that plants use their internal circadian clocks to defend themselves from hungry insects. That study found that Arabidopsis thaliana — a widely used model organism for plant studies — begins ramping up production of insect-fighting chemicals a few hours before sunrise, the time that hungry insects begin to feed.

Braam said the idea for the new research came from a conversation with her teenage son.
“I was telling him about the earlier work on Arabidopsis and insect resistance, and he said, ‘Well, I know what time of day I’ll eat my vegetables!’ Braam said. “That was my ‘aha!’ moment. He was thinking to avoid eating the vegetables when they would be accumulating the anti-insect chemicals, but I knew that some of those chemicals were known to be valuable metabolites for human health, so I decided to try and find out whether vegetables cycle those compounds based on circadian rhythms.”

Arabidopsis and cabbage are related, so Braam’s team began their research by attempting to “entrain” the clocks of cabbage in the same way they had Arabidopsis. Entrainment is akin to the process that international travelers go through as they recover from jet lag. After flying to the other side of the globe, travelers often have trouble sleeping until their internal circadian clock resets itself to the day-night cycle in their new locale.

Using controlled lighting in a sealed chamber, Rice graduate student and study lead author Danielle Goodspeed found she could entrain the circadian clocks of postharvest cabbage just as she had those of Arabidopsis in the 2012 study. Following the success with cabbage, Goodspeed and co-authors John Liu and Zhengji Sheng studied spinach, lettuce, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes and blueberries.

“We were able to entrain each of them, even the root vegetables,” Goodspeed said. She and Braam said the findings suggest that storing fruits and vegetables in dark trucks, boxes and refrigerators may reduce their ability to keep daily rhythms.

“We cannot yet say whether all-dark or all-light conditions shorten the shelf life of fruits and vegetables,” Braam said. “What we have shown is that keeping the internal clock ticking is advantageous with respect to insect resistance and could also yield health benefits.”

In the cabbage experiments, Braam, Goodspeed and Rice co-authors John Liu, Zhengji “Jim” Sheng and Wassim Chehab found they could manipulate cabbage leaves to increase their production of anti-insect metabolites at certain times of day. One of these, an antioxidant called glucoraphanin, or 4-MSO, is a known anti-cancer compound that has been previously studied in broccoli and other vegetables.

Braam’s team has already begun follow-up research, which is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, into whether light and other stimuli, like touch, may be used to enhance pest resistance of food crops in developing countries.

“It’s exciting to think that we may be able to boost the health benefits of our produce simply by changing the way we store it,” Goodspeed said.

Additional co-authors include Marta Francisco and Daniel Kliebenstein, both of the University of California at Davis. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by a 2011 Medical Innovation Award from the Rice University Institute of Bioscience and Bioengineering.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Scientists Decode Structure at Root of Muscular Disease
Researchers at Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have unlocked the structural details of a protein seen as key to treating a neuromuscular disease.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Researchers Find New Clue to Halting Leukemia Relapse
A protein domain once considered of little importance may be key to helping patients who are fighting acute myeloid leukemia (AML) avoid a relapse.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Imaging Software Could Speed Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Technology could improve access to diagnostic services in developing countries.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Researchers Strategize to Outsmart Bacteria
Rice University lab identifies mutations that allow bacteria to resist antibiotics.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Cancer Treatment Models get Real
Researchers at Rice Univ. and Univ. of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a way to mimic the conditions under which cancer tumors grow in bones.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Bacteria Use DNA Replication to Time Key Decision
Rice University researchers have found that in spore-forming bacteria, chromosomal locations of genes can couple the DNA replication cycle to critical decisions about whether to reproduce or form spores.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Massive Genome Shift in one Generation
A team of biologists has discovered that an agricultural pest that began plaguing U.S. apple growers in the 1850s likely did so after undergoing extensive and genome-wide changes in a single generation.
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
DNA Mutations get Harder to Hide
Rice University researchers have developed a method to detect rare DNA mutations with an approach hundreds of times more powerful than current methods.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Amniotic Stem Cells Demonstrate Healing Potential
Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital study proves cells promote vasculature in hydrogel therapy.
Friday, April 10, 2015
Cells Exercise Suboptimal Strategy to Survive
Rice University study shows it’s not always good for cells’ metabolism to work at peak efficiency.
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Designing A Better Way To Study Stomach Flu
Texas Medical Center team aims to improve research of gastrointestinal disease.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Worm Virus Details Come to Light
Rice University scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of rare nematode virus, known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Flu’s Mechanisms Clues Uncovered
Researchers from Rice University and Baylor College of Medicine have analyzed how influenza-related proteins help infect cells.
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
Water-cleanup Catalysts Tackle Biomass Upgrading
Rice University researchers register 4th ‘volcano plot’ for palladium-gold catalysts.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Researchers Tune in to Protein Pairs
Rice University team quantifies how mutations affect cell signaling in bacteria.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Scientific News
Researchers Develop Classification Model for Cancers Caused by KRAS
Most frequently mutated cancer gene help oncologists choose more effective cancer therapies.
Fixing Holes in the Heart Without Invasive Surgery
UV-light enabled catheter is a medical device which represents a major shift in how cardiac defects are repaired.
Chromosomal Chaos
Penn study forms basis for future precision medicine approaches for Sezary syndrome
Enzyme Malfunction May be Why Binge Drinking Can Lead to Alcoholism
A new study in mice shows that restoring the synthesis of a key brain chemical tied to inhibiting addictive behavior may help prevent alcohol cravings following binge drinking.
Key to Natural Detoxifier’s Reactivity Discovered
Results have implications for health, drug design and chemical synthesis.
New Treatment for Obesity Developed
Researchers at the University of Liverpool, working with a global healthcare company, have helped develop a new treatment for obesity.
New Protein Found in Immune Cells
Immunobiologists from the University of Freiburg discover Kidins220/ARMS in B cells and demonstrate its functions.
Will Brain Palpation Soon Be Possible?
Researchers have developed non-invasive brain imaging technique which provides the same information as physical palpation.
Shaking Up the Foundations of Epigenetics
Researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the University of Barcelona (UB) published a study that challenges some of the current beliefs about epigenetics.
Groundbreaking Computer Program Diagnoses Cancer in Two Days
Researchers have combined genetics with computer science and created a new diagnostic technology can with 85 per cent certainty identify the source of the disease and thus target treatment and, ultimately, improve the prognosis for the patient.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos