Leaf vitamin C contents modulate plant defense transcripts and regulate genes that control development through hormone signaling.
L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a powerful reducing agent found in millimolar concentrations in plants, and is proposed to play an important role in scavenging free radicals in plants and animals. However, surprisingly little is known about the role of this antioxidant in plant environmental stress adaptation or ascorbate biosynthesis. We report the isolation of soz1, a semi-dominant ozone-sensitive mutant that accumulates only 30% of the normal ascorbate concentration. The results of genetic approaches and feeding studies show that the ascorbate concentration affects foliar resistance to the oxidizing gas ozone. Consistent with the proposed role for ascorbate in reactive oxygen species detoxification, lipid peroxides are elevated in soz1, but not in wild type following ozone fumigation. We show that the soz1 mutant is hypersensitive to both sulfur dioxide and ultraviolet B irradiation, thus implicating ascorbate in defense against varied environmental stresses. In addition to defining the first ascorbate deficient mutant in plants, these results indicate that screening for ozone-sensitive mutants is a powerful method for identifying physiologically important antioxidant mechanisms and signal transduction pathways. Analysis of soz1 should lead to more information about the physiological roles and metabolism of ascorbate.