L -Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is as essential to plants as it is to animals. Ascorbic acid functions as a major redox buffer and as a cofactor for enzymes involved in regulating photosynthesis, hormone biosynthesis, and regenerating other antioxidants. Ascorbic acid regulates cell division and growth and is involved in signal transduction. In contrast to the single pathway responsible for ascorbic acid biosynthesis in animals, plants use multiple pathways to synthesize ascorbic acid, perhaps reflecting the importance of this molecule to plant health. Given the importance of ascorbic acid to human nutrition, several technologies have been developed to increase the ascorbic acid content of plants through the manipulation of biosynthetic or recycling pathways. This paper provides an overview of these approaches as well as the consequences that changes in ascorbic acid content have on plant growth and function. Discussed is the capacity of plants to tolerate changes in ascorbic acid content. The many functions that ascorbic acid serves in plants, however, will require highly targeted approaches to improve their nutritional quality without compromising their health.
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