, Volume 249, Issue 2, pp 363–376 | Cite as

Significantly increased amino acid accumulation in a novel albino branch of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis)

  • Mengqian Lu
  • Jieyun Han
  • Biying Zhu
  • Huiyan Jia
  • Tianyuan Yang
  • Rangjian Wang
  • Wei-Wei DengEmail author
  • Zheng-Zhu ZhangEmail author
Original Article


Main conclusion

A normal tea plant with one albino branch was discovered. RNA sequencing, albinism phenotype and ultrastructural observations provided a valuable understanding of the albino mechanism in tea plants.

Tea plants with a specific color (white or yellow) have been studied extensively. A normal tea plant (Camellia sinensis cv. quntizhong) with one albino branch was discovered in a local tea plantation in Huangshan, Anhui, China. The pure albino leaves on this special branch had accumulated a fairly high content of amino acids, especially theanine (45.31 mg/g DW), and had a low concentration of polyphenols and an extremely low chlorophyll (Chl) content compared with control leaves. Ultrastructural observation of an albino leaf revealed no chloroplasts, whereas it was viable in the control leaf. RNA sequencing and differentially expressed gene (DEG) analysis were performed on the albino leaves and on control leaves from a normal green branch. The related genes involved in theanine and polyphenol biosynthesis were also investigated in this study. DEG expression patterns in Chl biosynthesis or degradation, carotenoid biosynthesis or degradation, chloroplast development, and biosynthesis were influenced in the albino leaves. Chloroplast deletion in albino leaves had probably destroyed the balance of carbon and nitrogen metabolism, leading to a high accumulation of free amino acids and a low concentration of polyphenols in the albino leaves. The obtained results can provide insight into the mechanism underlying this special albino branch phenotype, and are a valuable contribution toward understanding the albino mechanism in tea plants.


Albino tea plant Chlorophyll biosynthesis Differentially expressed genes Polyphenol Theanine 



Differentially expressed gene


Green bud/2nd leaves under the GB/1st leaves under the GB


Light-harvesting Chl a/b-binding protein




Albino bud/2nd leaves under the WB/1st leaves under the WB



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Grant No. 31870679), the Natural Science Foundation of Anhui Province (Grant No. 1608085QC60), the Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (Grant No. IRT_15R01), and Tea Plant Germplasm Resources Innovation Team Project of Fujian Academy of Agricultural Science (STIT2017-3-12).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

425_2018_3007_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1257 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Tea Plant Biology and UtilizationAnhui Agricultural UniversityHefeiChina
  2. 2.Tea Research InstituteFujian Academy of Agricultural ScienceFuanChina

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