Identification of leucoanthocyanidin reductase and anthocyanidin reductase genes involved in proanthocyanidin biosynthesis in Malus crabapple plants

Hua Li, Ji Tian, Yu-Yan Yao, Jie Zhang, Ting-Ting Song, Ke-Ting Li, Yun-Cong Yao
Plant Physiology and Biochemistry: PPB 2019 March 8, 139: 141-151
Proanthocyanidins (PAs) from plants are a nutritionally valuable component of the human diet and play important roles in defense against pests and diseases. PAs are products of the flavonoid pathway, which also leads to the production of anthocyanins and flavonols. The enzymes leucoanthocyanidin reductase (LAR) and anthocyanidin reductase (ANR) are involved in PA biosynthesis. The PA biosynthetic pathway has been characterized in several plant species, but the relationship between its expression and PA accumulation in Malus crabapple remains unclear. Here, we cloned the LAR genes MrLAR1, 2, and the ANR genes MrANR1, 2, from the red leaved Malus crabapple cultivar 'Royalty'. The contents of PAs and the expression levels of the LAR and ANR genes were investigated in different organs of the two crabapple cultivars. The transcript levels of two LAR genes and two ANR genes correlated with the contents of the catechin and epicatechin, which are proanthocyanidin precursors. Over-expression of the MrLAR1, 2 and MrANR1, 2 in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) promoted the accumulation of PAs, while transient silencing of their expression in crabapple resulted in reduced PA levels. In addition, a negative correlation between quercetin, anthocyanin, and PA biosynthesis was also found during crabapple leaf and fruit peel development. We also found that MrLAR1 and 2 may contribute to epicatechin biosynthesis. In summary, the LAR and ANR genes are critical factors in PA biosynthesis, and there is competition between the quercetin, anthocyanin, and PA biosynthetic pathways during leaf and fruit peel development in Malus crabapple.

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