Blue light may be bad for humans, but good for mangoes

Blue light may be bad for humans, but good for mangoes

Blue light may be bad for humans, but good for mangoes

image: Mangoes exposed to blue light for several days were redder and sweeter (top) than those placed in the dark (bottom).
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Credit: Adapted from Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2022, DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.2c07137

We’re often told to limit our “screen time,” in part because of the harsh blue light screens can emit. Plants can also detect blue light, but instead of giving our green friends sleepless nights, it might help their fruit taste better. Researchers now report in ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that mangoes can become redder, sweeter and riper when exposed to blue light for several days.

Plants depend on sunlight to perform photosynthesis and ripen their fruits. Studies have shown that exposure to light can affect the appearance of the skin of certain fruits and can increase the amount of sugar and pigments in fruits such as tomatoes, which contain chlorophyll throughout their flesh. However, other fruits like mangoes only contain this pigment in their thick peels, which could alter the effect of light on the flesh. Also, sunlight contains many colors, so different wavelengths can have different effects. Thus, Yuanwen Teng and her colleagues wanted to study the impact of blue light on the quality and ripeness of mangoes.

To understand this phenomenon, the researchers placed a group of mangoes in blue light and another group in the dark for nine days. They found that mangoes in blue light had significantly more anthocyanins in their peels, making them redder than those left in the dark. The flesh of these mangoes was also softer, sweeter and more yellow, and contained more sucrose and carotenoids than the other group. In further tests, the team found that light-sensitive genes involved in the photosynthesis pathway, as well as key genes involved in the production of sucrose, anthocyanin and carotenoids, were upregulated under the blue light. This meant that the mangoes could directly perceive this light and trigger an internal genetic signaling pathway, the researchers explain. The effect was more pronounced in the skin than in the flesh, indicating that the blue light did not penetrate much beyond the skin. The researchers say this work could help shed light on the complex relationship between colored light and the internal quality of the fruit.

The researchers acknowledge funding from Hainan Province Key Research and Development Program and Basic Research Funds for Central Universities.

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