Why fruits are rich in antioxidants? An opinion review,
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We rarely consider whether and how plants benefit from making antioxidant-rich fruits, despite our dependence on fruits as routine sources of these compounds. The hypothesis presented here is that storage of the antioxidant materials is advantageous to the survival of the plant species. This hypothesis is based on the premise that at different stages from flower bud opening to seedling formation, the concentrations of the reactive oxygen species (ROS) needed vary tremendously. Exposing seeds of several plant species to ROS aids germination. However, ROS can cause considerable damage by mutagenesis during plant embryogenesis. It is suggested that the antioxidant-rich environment in fruits protects the developing plant embryos from this damage. It also allows for an antioxidant environment for packaging the embryos into seeds with tight seed coats. After fruit maturation and seed dispersal, a prolonged exposure to oxygen and moisture enables the seeds to produce the ROS needed for seed germination. There is a simultaneous increase in the ROS scavenging systems to allow for protection of the dividing cells afterwards. These observations are unified into the hypothesis that the antioxidant rich fruits aid in the survival of plant species, and discussed in the context of vascular plant evolution.
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