Lutescens, or lutescent, plant mutants produce leaves that are abnormally light yellow-green compared with normal plants, and are observed in multiple species of Capsicum as well as other genera such as Zea, Oryza, and Oenothera. Previous investigations into the lutescent phenotype in Capsicum have focused on genetic and transcriptomic analyses, and comparatively little is known about the phytochemical constituents of the lutescent leaf phenotype. Previous research in similar lutescent mutants in Capsicum and Oryza species has attributed their pale yellow-green leaf color and poor vigor to deficient chloroplast development. A total of 25 accessions of Capsicum lutescens mutants were phenotyped and analyzed based on a multivariate approach, using ‘Jupiter’ bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) with normal green leaves as a contextual benchmark. Photosynthetic pigments from mutant leaves were extracted and analyzed using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC); reflectance of the leaf material was measured with a chromameter using the L*a*b* color space. The chlorophyll a (Chl a)/b (Chl b) ratio was greater in leaves of lutescens mutants than in ‘Jupiter’. Multivariate statistical analyses revealed all lutescent mutant accessions could be distinguished from the ‘Jupiter’ contextual benchmark by variables indicating poor chloroplast development and increased photooxidative stress in lutescent mutant accessions. The lutescent leaf phenotype was not found to be caused by elevated xanthophyll or decreased chlorophyll concentrations. Furthermore, multivariate analysis revealed the lutescent mutant phenotype to be variable, with a wide range of phenotypes clustered into four major groups.
This study investigated the diversity of carotenoids and phenolics in germplasm from three Capsicum (chile pepper) species, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum baccatum, and Capsicum chinense. Lutein, a yellow-pigmented carotenoid, and phenolics, a group of secondary metabolites, are reported to have health-promoting properties. The germplasm studied matured to a yellow color. The hypothesis was that all yellow fruits would contain either the carotenoid lutein, a yellow pigment, or a large amount of phenolics, a group of secondary metabolites that may be yellow among other colors. Thirty-one Capsicum accessions were grown in the field over a period of two seasons. On a dry weight (DW) basis, lutein ranged from 0.14 to 94.2 μg·g−1, and total phenolics ranged from 5.79 to 15.01 mg·g−1. No lutein was detected in one accession and β-carotene, another health-promoting compound, was lacking in four accessions. Accessions were grouped into four groups according to a principal component analysis plot. Results from this study indicate that in only nine accessions, lutein represented at least 50% of the total carotenoid amounts in each accession. These accessions are desirable not only as a source of dietary lutein, a natural yellow pigment, but also as genetic material that can be used to breed for higher lutein Capsicum. Therefore, yellow color is not a good indicator of lutein content and phytochemical analysis is required to determine the content of health-promoting compounds.