Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

An R2R3 MYB transcription factor determines red petal colour in an Actinidia (kiwifruit) hybrid population

Lena G Fraser1*, Alan G Seal2, Mirco Montefiori1, Tony K McGhie3, Gianna K Tsang1, Paul M Datson1, Elena Hilario1, Hinga E Marsh2, Juanita K Dunn2, Roger P Hellens1, Kevin M Davies3, Mark A McNeilage1, H Nihal De Silva1 and Andrew C Allan1

Author Affiliations

1 The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, 120 Mt. Albert Road, Auckland, 1142, New Zealand

2 The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, 412 No. 1 Road, RD 2, Te Puke, 3182, New Zealand

3 The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited, Fitzherbert Science Centre, Batchelar Road, Palmerston North, 4474, New Zealand

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2013, 14:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-28

Published: 16 January 2013



Red colour in kiwifruit results from the presence of anthocyanin pigments. Their expression, however, is complex, and varies among genotypes, species, tissues and environments. An understanding of the biosynthesis, physiology and genetics of the anthocyanins involved, and the control of their expression in different tissues, is required. A complex, the MBW complex, consisting of R2R3-MYB and bHLH transcription factors together with a WD-repeat protein, activates anthocyanin 3-O-galactosyltransferase (F3GT1) to produce anthocyanins. We examined the expression and genetic control of anthocyanins in flowers of Actinidia hybrid families segregating for red and white petal colour.


Four inter-related backcross families between Actinidia chinensis Planch. var. chinensis and Actinidia eriantha Benth. were identified that segregated 1:1 for red or white petal colour. Flower pigments consisted of five known anthocyanins (two delphinidin-based and three cyanidin-based) and three unknowns. Intensity and hue differed in red petals from pale pink to deep magenta, and while intensity of colour increased with total concentration of anthocyanin, no association was found between any particular anthocyanin data and hue. Real time qPCR demonstrated that an R2R3 MYB, MYB110a, was expressed at significant levels in red-petalled progeny, but not in individuals with white petals.

A microsatellite marker was developed that identified alleles that segregated with red petal colour, but not with ovary, stamen filament, or fruit flesh colour in these families. The marker mapped to chromosome 10 in Actinidia.

The white petal phenotype was complemented by syringing Agrobacterium tumefaciens carrying Actinidia 35S::MYB110a into the petal tissue. Red pigments developed in white petals both with, and without, co-transformation with Actinidia bHLH partners. MYB110a was shown to directly activate Actinidia F3GT1 in transient assays.


The transcription factor, MYB110a, regulates anthocyanin production in petals in this hybrid population, but not in other flower tissues or mature fruit. The identification of delphinidin-based anthocyanins in these flowers provides candidates for colour enhancement in novel fruits.

Actinidia; Kiwifruit; Anthocyanin; MYB; Transcription factor; Colour