Anthocyanidin synthase in non-anthocyanin-producing Caryophyllales species


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Red colors in flowers are mainly produced by two types of pigments: anthocyanins and betacyanins. Although anthocyanins are widely distributed in higher plants, betacyanins have replaced anthocyanins in the Caryophyllales. There has been no report so far to find anthocyanins and betacyanins existing together within the same plant. This curious phenomenon has been examined from genetic and evolutionary perspectives, however nothing is known at the molecular level about the mutual exclusion of anthocyanins and betacyanins in higher plants. Here, we show that spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), which are both members of the Caryophyllales, have functional anthocyanidin synthases (ANSs). The ability of ANSs of the Caryophyllales to oxidize trans-leucocyanidin to cyanidin is comparable to that of ANSs in anthocyanin-producing plants. Expression profiles reveal that, in spinach, dihydroflavonol 4-reductase (DFR) and ANS are not expressed in most tissues and organs, except seeds, in which ANS may contribute to proanthocyanidin synthesis. One possible explanation for the lack of anthocyanins in the Caryophyllales is the suppression or limited expression of the DFR and ANS.