Food and Bioprocess Technology

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 883–897 | Cite as

Influence of Ethylene on Morphology and Pigment Changes in Harvested Broccoli

  • Jia-hui Cai
  • Shun-chang Cheng
  • Feng Luo
  • Ying-bo Zhao
  • Bao-dong Wei
  • Qian Zhou
  • Xin Zhou
  • Shu-juan JiEmail author
Original Paper


Ethylene and ethylene absorber treatments were used to study the effects of ethylene content on the morphology and pigmentation of broccoli. Results showed that untreated broccoli began to turn yellow 8 days after being harvested at 10 °C. Ethylene treatment caused yellowing to occur 2 days earlier, and ethylene absorber treatment delayed and significantly reduced the degree of yellowing. Yellowing first occurred in the base of the bud; at that time, the shape of the bud had not changed significantly and there was no blooming of the florets. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that the increase in ethylene content caused the calyx cells of broccoli to shrink and that the cell arrangement had become disordered. Ethylene treatment caused increases in the content of chlorophyllide b (Chlide b), pheophorbide b (Pheide b), β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and β-carotene. The increased degree of yellowing resulted in carotenoids rather than chlorophyll becoming the key pigment (β-cryptoxanthin, β-carotene, and lutein were very significantly correlated with h°). During this change, the expression levels of the BoChl2, BoPaO, BoRCCR, BoPSY, and BoLCYB genes were affected to a greater extent by ethylene. Ethylene absorber treatment did not reduce gene expression, but delayed it. These results indicate that the ethylene absorber only absorbed the ethylene produced and did not directly act on the degradation of chlorophyll. Ethylene also stimulated the expression of BoCCD1 and BoCCD7, resulting in the production of an unknown yellow substance that increased the yellow color of broccoli. In comparison, BoCCD7 expression was more sensitive than BoCCD1.


Carotenoids Chlorophyll Ethylene content Shelf-life Yellowing 


Author Contributions

Cai J and Ji S conceived and designed the experiments, Cai J conducted the experiments, Cheng S and Luo F analyzed the data, and Cai J wrote the manuscript; all the authors read and approved the manuscript.

Funding Information

This work was supported by the National Key R&D Program of China (grant no. 2016YFD0400103).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jia-hui Cai
    • 1
  • Shun-chang Cheng
    • 1
  • Feng Luo
    • 1
  • Ying-bo Zhao
    • 1
  • Bao-dong Wei
    • 1
  • Qian Zhou
    • 1
  • Xin Zhou
    • 1
  • Shu-juan Ji
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Food ScienceShenyang Agricultural UniversityShenyangPeople’s Republic of China

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