Discovering that plants produce bilirubin, a blood-breakdown product

June 08, 2023

This compound might contribute to the efficient photosynthesis in plants

Researchers from Utsunomiya University, together with those from the RIKEN Center for Brain Science, the RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics, the RIKEN CSRS, Okayama University, and Kyoto University, have demonstrated that plants produce bilirubin, which is known to be generated when the animal blood is broken down. They also successfully observed changes in the bilirubin level in live plant cells for the first time using the protein UnaG, which emits fluorescence when binding to bilirubin. They found that plant bilirubin is produced during photosynthesis and reduces oxidative stress, which is responsible for lowering photosynthesis efficiency.

Further research on bilirubin, a clinically significant compound, from the aspect of plant science could help identify its universal role in cellular function and contribute to medical and health sciences as well as plant science.

Original article
Science Advances doi:10.1126/sciadv.adh4787
K. Ishikawa, X. Xie, Y. Osaki, A. Miyawaki, K. Numata, Y. Kodama,
"Bilirubin is produced non-enzymatically in plants to maintain chloroplast redox status".
Keiji Numata
Team Leader
Biomacromolecules Research Team