Violet/blue chrysanthemums—metabolic engineering of the anthocyanin biosynthetic pathway results in novel petal colors

Filippa Brugliera, Guo-Qing Tao, Ursula Tems, Gianna Kalc, Ekaterina Mouradova, Kym Price, Kim Stevenson, Noriko Nakamura, Iolanda Stacey, Yukihisa Katsumoto, Yoshikazu Tanaka, John G Mason
Plant & Cell Physiology 2013, 54 (10): 1696-710
Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum×morifolium Ramat.) are an important cut-flower and potted plant crop in the horticultural industry world wide. Chrysanthemums express the flavonoid 3'-hydroxylase (F3'H) gene and thus accumulate anthocyanins derived from cyanidin in their inflorescences which appear pink/red. Delphinidin-based anthocyanins are lacking due to the deficiency of a flavonoid 3', 5'-hydroxylase (F3'5'H), and so violet/blue chrysanthemum flower colors are not found. In this study, together with optimization of transgene expression and selection of the host cultivars and gene source, F3'5'H genes have been successfully utilized to produce transgenic bluish chrysanthemums that accumulate delphinidin-based anthocyanins. HPLC analysis and feeding experiments with a delphinidin precursor identified 16 cultivars of chrysanthemums out of 75 that were predicted to turn bluish upon delphinidin accumulation. A selection of eight cultivars were successfully transformed with F3'5'H genes under the control of different promoters. A pansy F3'5'H gene under the control of a chalcone synthase promoter fragment from rose resulted in the effective diversion of the anthocyanin pathway to produce delphinidin in transgenic chrysanthemum flower petals. The resultant petal color was bluish, with 40% of total anthocyanidins attributed to delphinidin. Increased delphinidin levels (up to 80%) were further achieved by hairpin RNA interference-mediated silencing of the endogenous F3'H gene. The resulting petal colors were novel bluish hues, not possible by hybridization breeding. This is the first report of the production of anthocyanins derived from delphinidin in chrysanthemum petals leading to novel flower color.

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