JOURNAL ARTICLE

Proanthocyanidin synthesis in Theobroma cacao: genes encoding anthocyanidin synthase, anthocyanidin reductase, and leucoanthocyanidin reductase

Yi Liu, Zi Shi, Siela Maximova, Mark J Payne, Mark J Guiltinan
BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13: 202
24308601

BACKGROUND: The proanthocyanidins (PAs), a subgroup of flavonoids, accumulate to levels of approximately 10% total dry weight of cacao seeds. PAs have been associated with human health benefits and also play important roles in pest and disease defense throughout the plant.

RESULTS: To dissect the genetic basis of PA biosynthetic pathway in cacao (Theobroma cacao), we have isolated three genes encoding key PA synthesis enzymes, anthocyanidin synthase (ANS), anthocyanidin reductase (ANR) and leucoanthocyanidin reductase (LAR). We measured the expression levels of TcANR, TcANS and TcLAR and PA content in cacao leaves, flowers, pod exocarp and seeds. In all tissues examined, all three genes were abundantly expressed and well correlated with PA accumulation levels, suggesting their active roles in PA synthesis. Overexpression of TcANR in an Arabidopsis ban mutant complemented the PA deficient phenotype in seeds and resulted in reduced anthocyanidin levels in hypocotyls. Overexpression of TcANS in tobacco resulted in increased content of both anthocyanidins and PAs in flower petals. Overexpression of TcANS in an Arabidopsis ldox mutant complemented its PA deficient phenotype in seeds. Recombinant TcLAR protein converted leucoanthocyanidin to catechin in vitro. Transgenic tobacco overexpressing TcLAR had decreased amounts of anthocyanidins and increased PAs. Overexpressing TcLAR in Arabidopsis ldox mutant also resulted in elevated synthesis of not only catechin but also epicatechin.

CONCLUSION: Our results confirm the in vivo function of cacao ANS and ANR predicted based on sequence homology to previously characterized enzymes from other species. In addition, our results provide a clear functional analysis of a LAR gene in vivo.

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