Enhanced Accumulation of Vitamins, Nutraceuticals and Minerals in Lettuces Associated with Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF): A Question of Interest for Both Vegetables and Humans
Lettuce ( Lactuca sativa L.) is extensively grown and is the most widely used food crop for the called “Fourth Range” of vegetables. Lettuce exhibits healthy properties mainly due to the presence of antioxidant compounds (vitamins C and E, carotenoids, polyphenols) alongside significant fibre content and useful amounts of certain minerals. Lettuce can establish a mutualistic association with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). The establishment of the symbiosis involves a continuous cellular and molecular dialogue between both symbionts, which includes the activation of antioxidant, phenylpropanoid or carotenoid metabolic pathways. The presence of AMF colonizing roots of greenhouse-grown lettuces can induce an accumulation of secondary metabolites, vitamins and minerals in leaves that overcome the dilution effect due to the increased size of mycorrhizal plants. Therefore, AMF would allow the intake of minerals and compounds with antioxidant properties to be enhanced without increasing the consumption of lettuce in the diet. In addition, increased quantities of secondary metabolites may help lettuce plants to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. Our review discusses the influence exerted by several environmental factors and agronomic practices on the ability of AMF for enhancing the levels of vitamins, nutraceuticals and minerals in leaves of green and red-leaf types of lettuces.
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