Berry development and bioactive compound research

Bilberry, European blueberry, is one of the most significant wild berries in northern Europe, where it grows most abundantly in boreal forests. Bilberry is one of the best natural sources of anthocyanins. Anthocyanin content in bilberry has been found to increase towards north emphasizing the role of environmental factors such as temperature and light conditions on flavonoid biosynthesis. Bilberry also contains high yields of carotenoids, it is a moderate source of vitamin C and rich in minerals and fibers. Thus, bilberry possesses several health beneficial properties and it is also an excellent source for functional foods.

Our research aims to understand the berry development and regulation of biosynthesis of berry bioactive compounds at a molecular level. We are focused to study the hormonal and genetic regulation of development of small non-climacteric fruits of forest berry crops of northern Europe including genus Vaccinium, especially bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.). The sequence data has been used e.g. for identification of the specific genes from different metabolic pathways in bilberry. More recently we have also utilized Biocenter Oulu Sequencing Center for de novo RNAseq analyses on bilberry to get a more holistic view on gene expression changes at different growth / light conditions. We are also developing sequence based methodology for authenticity analyses of berry species and commercial berry products to serve berry industry. The group is part of the Bioeconomy Research Community of the University of Oulu.

Group members: Dr. Katja Karppinen, M.Sc Nga Nguyenquynh, M.Sc Priyanka Trivedi, Dr. Laura Zoratti, M.Sc Marko Suokas, Prof. Emerita Anja Hohtola, Prof. Hely Häggman


Contact details

Professor Hely Häggman

Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu

Tel: +358 408446842


Recent publications:

Karppinen K, Zoratti L, Sarala M, Carvalho E, Hirsimäki J, Mentula H, Martens S, Häggman H, Jaakola L (2016) Carotenoid metabolism during bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) fruit development under different light conditions is regulated by biosynthesis and degradation. BMC Plant Biology 16:95.

Karppinen K, Zoratti L, Nguyenquynh N, Häggman H, Jaakola L (2016) On the developmental and environmental regulation of secondary metabolism in Vaccinium spp. berries. Frontiers in Plant Science 7:655.

Primetta AK, Karppinen K, Riihinen KR, Jaakola L (2015) Metabolic and molecular analysis of white mutant Vaccinium berries show down-regulation of MYBPA1-type R2R3 MYB regulatory factor. Planta 242:631-643.

Zoratti L, Jaakola L, Häggman H, Giongo L (2015)  Anthocyanin profile in berries of wild and cultivated Vaccinium spp. along altitudinal gradients in the Alps. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63:8641-8650.

Zoratti L, Palmieri L, Jaakola L, Häggman H (2015) Genetic diversity and population structure of a Northern Europe wild bilberry crop. AoB PLANTS 7:plv117.

Zoratti L, Jaakola L, Häggman H, Giongo L (2015) Modification of sunlight radiation through colored photo-selective nets affects anthocyanin profile in Vaccinium spp. berries PLOS ONE doi:10.1371.

Haapala A, Härkönen J, Leviäkangas P, Kess P, Häggman H, Arvola J, Stoor T, Ämmälä A, Karppinen K, Leppilampi M, Niinimäki J (2015) Bioeconomy potential – focus on Northern Finland. International Journal of Sustainable Economy 7:66-90. 

Zoratti L, Sarala M, Carvalho E, Karppinen K, Martens S, Giongo L, Häggman H, Jaakola L (2014) Monochromatic light increases anthocyanin content during fruit development in bilberry. BMC Plant Biology 14:377.

Zoratti L, Karppinen K, Luengo-Escobar A, Häggman H, Jaakola L (2014) Light-controlled flavonoid biosynthesis in fruit plants. Frontiers in Plant Science 5:534.

Karppinen K, Hirvelä E, Sipari N, Suokas M, Jaakola L (2013) Abscisic acid biosynthesis in bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) and changes during fruit development. Phytochemistry 95:127-134.

Uleberg E, Rohloff J, Jaakola L, Trôst K, Junttila O, Häggman H,  Martinussen I (2012) Effects of temperature and photoperiod on yield and chemical composition of northern and southern clones of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.).  Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 60:10406-10414.

Cocetta G, Karppinen K, Suokas M, Hohtola A, Häggman H, Spinardi A, Mignani I, Jaakola L (2012) Ascorbic acid metabolism during bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) fruit development. Journal of Plant Physiology 169:1059–1065.

Jaakola L, Poole M, Jones M, Kämäräinen-Karppinen T, Koskimäki JJ, Hohtola A, Häggman H, Fraser P, Manning K, King GJ, Thomson H, Seymour GB (2010) A SQUAMOSA MADS-box gene regulates anthocyanin accumulation in bilberry fruits. Plant Physiology 153:1619-1629.

Jaakola L, Hohtola A (2010) The effect of latitude on flavonoid biosynthesis in plants. Plant, Cell and Environment 33:1239-1247.

Jaakola L, Suokas M, Häggman H (2010) Novel approaches based on DNA barcoding and high-resolution melting of amplicons for authenticity analyses of berry species. Food Chemistry 123:494-500.


Viimeksi päivitetty: 13.4.2017