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Open Access Research article

Genome-wide transcriptome analysis of genes involved in flavonoid biosynthesis between red and white strains of Magnolia sprengeri pamp

Shou-Guo Shi12, Mei Yang1, Min Zhang1, Ping Wang1, Yong-Xiang Kang1 and Jian-Jun Liu1*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Forestry, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China

2 Life Sciences Department, Yuncheng University, Yuncheng, Shanxi 044000, China

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BMC Genomics 2014, 15:706  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-706

Published: 23 August 2014



Magnolia sprengeri Pamp is one of the most highly valuable medicinal and ornamental plants of the Magnolia Family. The natural color of M. sprengeri is variable. The complete genome sequence of M. sprengeri is not available; therefore we sequenced the transcriptome of white and red petals of M. sprengeri using Illumina technology. We focused on the identity of structural and regulatory genes encoding the enzymes involved in the determination of flower color.


We sequenced and annotated a reference transcriptome for M. sprengeri, and aimed to capture the transcriptional determinanats of flower color. We sequenced a normalized cDNA library of white and red petals using Illumina technology. The resulting reads were assembled into 77,048 unique sequences, of which 28,243 could be annotated by Gene Ontology (GO) analysis, while 48,805 transcripts lacked GO annotation. The main enzymes involved in the flavonoid biosynthesis, such as phenylalanine ammonia-Lyase, cinnamat-4-Hydroxylase, dihydroflavonol-4-reductase, flavanone 3-hydroxylase, flavonoid-3′-hydroxylase, flavonol synthase, chalcone synthase and anthocyanidin synthase, were identified in the transcriptome. A total of 270 transcription factors were sorted into three families, including MYB, bHLH and WD40 types. Among these transcription factors, eight showed 4-fold or greater changes in transcript abundance in red petals compared with white petals. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis of anthocyanin compositions showed that the main anthocyanin in the petals of M. sprengeri is cyanidin-3-O-glucoside chloride and its content in red petals was 26-fold higher than that in white petals.


This study presents the first next-generation sequencing effort and transcriptome analysis of a non-model plant from the Family Magnoliaceae. Genes encoding key enzymes were identified and the metabolic pathways involved in biosynthesis and catabolism of M. sprengeri flavonoids were reconstructed. Identification of these genes and pathways adds to the current knowledge of the molecular biology and biochemistry of their production in plant. Such insights into the mechanisms supporting metabolic processes could be used to genetically to enhance flower color among members of the Magnoliaceae.

Transcriptome; Flavonoid biosynthesis; Magnolia sprengeri; Flower color