The role of H2S in low temperature-induced cucurbitacin C increases in cucumber

  • Zhiqiang Liu
  • Yawen Li
  • Chunyu Cao
  • Shan Liang
  • Yongshuo Ma
  • Xin Liu
  • Yanxi PeiEmail author


Key message

In this study, we first linked the signal molecule H2S with cucurbitacin C, which can cause the bitter taste of cucumber leaves and fruit, and specifically discuss its molecular mechanism.


Cucurbitacin C (CuC), a triterpenoid secondary metabolite, enhances the resistance of cucumber plants to pathogenic bacteria and insect herbivores, but results in bitter-tasting fruits. CuC can be induced in some varieties of cucumber on exposure to plant stressors. The gasotransmitter hydrogen sulfide (H2S) participates in multiple physiological processes relating to plant stress resistance. This study focused on the effect of H2S on low temperature-induced CuC synthesis in cucumber. The results showed that treatment of cucumber leaves at 4 °C for 12 h enhanced the content and production rate of H2S and increased the expression of genes encoding enzymes involved in H2S generation, Csa2G034800.1 (CsaLCD), Csa1G574800.1 (CsaDES1), and Csa1G574810.1 (CsaDES2). In addition, treatment at 4 °C or with exogenous H2S upregulated the expression of CuC synthetase-encoding genes and the resulting CuC content in cucumber leaves, whereas pretreatment with hypotaurine (HT, a H2S scavenger) before treatment at 4 °C offset these effects. In vitro, H2S could increase the S-sulfhydration level of His-Csa5G156220 and His-Csa5G157230 (both bHLH transcription factors), as well as their binding activity to the promoter of Csa6G088690, which encodes the key synthetase for CuC generation. H2S pretreatment enhanced the cucumber leaves resistance to the Phytophthora melonis. Together, these results demonstrated that H2S acts as a positive regulator of CuC synthesis as a result of the modification of proteins by S-sulfhydration, also providing indirect evidence for the role of H2S in improving the resistance of plants to abiotic stresses and biotic stresses by regulating the synthesis of secondary metabolites.


Cucurbitacin C Hydrogen sulfide Low temperature stress S-sulfhydration Phytophthora melonis 



We thank Dr. Sanwen Huang for Cucumber seeds. We also thank assistant researcher Jianbo Zhou for providing Phytophthora melonis strains. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation (Grant 31671605), and the projects of Beijing Technology and Business University Youth Fund (No. QNJJ2017-06). We also thanks International Science Editing ( for editing this manuscript.

Author contributions

ZL and YL have contributed equally to this work. ZL designed experiments; YL carried out experiments; ZL and YL analyzed experimental results. CC analyzed sequencing date and developed analysis tools. YM, SL and XL participated in the discussion and gave unique insights. YP reviewed and examined the experiment.


This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation (Grant 31671605), and the projects of Beijing Technology and Business University Youth Fund (No. QNJJ2017-06).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11103_2019_834_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1050 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life ScienceShanxi UniversityTaiyuanChina
  2. 2.Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Food Nutrition and Human HealthBeijing Technology and Business UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Beijing Engineering and Technology Research Center of Food AdditivesBeijing Technology and Business UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Agricultural Genomics Institute at ShenzhenChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesShenzhenChina
  5. 5.School of Life SciencesQingdao Agricultural UniversityQingdaoChina

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