Amaranthus tricolor L. tricolor cv. Earlysplendor, an ornamental amaranth, generates red leaves instead of green leaves in late summer to early autumn. Red leaf formation was promoted under short-day conditions and delayed by night-break treatments. Red leaves were characterized by lower levels of chlorophyll accumulation rather than higher levels of red pigment (betacyanin) accumulation. However, the metabolic activity toward the production of Mg-protoporphyrin, an intermediate in the biosynthesis pathway for chlorophyll, was detected in red leaves as well as in green leaves.
RNA gel blot analysis was performed to assess the expression of nine genes encoding eight enzymes involved in chlorophyll biosynthesis. Among these enzymes, red-leaf-specific reduction of gene expression was observed only for NADPH-protochlorophyllide oxidoreductase (POR), a key enzyme catalyzing a later step of chlorophyll biosynthesis. In addition, immunoblot analysis showed no accumulation of POR protein(s) in red leaves. These data indicate that the repression of POR gene expression and resultant loss of chlorophyll synthesis activity plays a role in red leaf formation of A. tricolor.