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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Isolation and antisense suppression of flavonoid 3', 5'-hydroxylase modifies flower pigments and colour in cyclamen

Murray R Boase*, David H Lewis, Kevin M Davies, Gayle B Marshall, Deepa Patel, Kathy E Schwinn and Simon C Deroles

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New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd, Private Bag 11-600, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2010, 10:107  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-107

Published: 13 June 2010

Abstract

Background

Cyclamen is a popular and economically significant pot plant crop in several countries. Molecular breeding technologies provide opportunities to metabolically engineer the well-characterized flavonoid biosynthetic pathway for altered anthocyanin profile and hence the colour of the flower. Previously we reported on a genetic transformation system for cyclamen. Our aim in this study was to change pigment profiles and flower colours in cyclamen through the suppression of flavonoid 3', 5'-hydroxylase, an enzyme in the flavonoid pathway that plays a determining role in the colour of anthocyanin pigments.

Results

A full-length cDNA putatively identified as a F3'5'H (CpF3'5'H) was isolated from cyclamen flower tissue. Amino acid and phylogeny analyses indicated the CpF3'5'H encodes a F3'5'H enzyme. Two cultivars of minicyclamen were transformed via Agrobacterium tumefaciens with an antisense CpF3'5'H construct. Flowers of the transgenic lines showed modified colour and this correlated positively with the loss of endogenous F3'5'H transcript. Changes in observed colour were confirmed by colorimeter measurements, with an overall loss in intensity of colour (C) in the transgenic lines and a shift in hue from purple to red/pink in one cultivar. HPLC analysis showed that delphinidin-derived pigment levels were reduced in transgenic lines relative to control lines while the percentage of cyanidin-derived pigments increased. Total anthocyanin concentration was reduced up to 80% in some transgenic lines and a smaller increase in flavonol concentration was recorded. Differences were also seen in the ratio of flavonol types that accumulated.

Conclusion

To our knowledge this is the first report of genetic modification of the anthocyanin pathway in the commercially important species cyclamen. The effects of suppressing a key enzyme, F3'5'H, were wide ranging, extending from anthocyanins to other branches of the flavonoid pathway. The results illustrate the complexity involved in modifying a biosynthetic pathway with multiple branch points to different end products and provides important information for future flower colour modification experiments in cyclamen.