Expression of genes involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis in relation to anthocyanin, proanthocyanidin, and flavonol levels during bilberry fruit development

Author(s): Jaakola L, Määttä K, Pirttilä AM, Törrönen R, Kärenlampi S, et al.


The production of anthocyanins in fruit tissues is highly controlled at the developmental level. We have studied the expression of flavonoid biosynthesis genes during the development of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) fruit in relation to the accumulation of anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and flavonols in wild berries and in color mutants of bilberry. The cDNA fragments of five genes from the flavonoid pathway, phenylalanine ammonia-lyase, chalcone synthase, flavanone 3-hydroxylase, dihydroflavonol 4-reductase, and anthocyanidin synthase, were isolated from bilberry using the polymerase chain reaction technique, sequenced, and labeled with a digoxigenin-dUTP label. These homologous probes were used for determining the expression of the flavonoid pathway genes in bilberries. The contents of anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and flavonols in ripening bilberries were analyzed with high-performance liquid chromatography-diode array detector and were identified using a mass spectrometry interface. Our results demonstrate a correlation between anthocyanin accumulation and expression of the flavonoid pathway genes during the ripening of berries. At the early stages of berry development, procyanidins and quercetin were the major flavonoids, but the levels decreased dramatically during the progress of ripening. During the later stages of ripening, the content of anthocyanins increased strongly and they were the major flavonoids in the ripe berry. The expression of flavonoid pathway genes in the color mutants of bilberry was reduced. A connection between flavonol and anthocyanin synthesis in bilberry was detected in this study and also in previous data collected from flavonol and anthocyanin analyses from other fruits. In accordance with this, models for the connection between flavonol and anthocyanin syntheses in fruit tissues are presented.

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