MdHB1down-regulation activates anthocyanin biosynthesis in the white-fleshed apple cultivar ‘Granny Smith’

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Abstract

Coloration in apple (Malus×domestica) flesh is mainly caused by the accumulation of anthocyanin. Anthocyanin is biosynthesized through the flavonoid pathway and regulated by MYB, bHLH, and WD40 transcription factors (TFs). Here, we report that the HD-Zip I TF MdHB1 was also involved in the regulation of anthocyanin accumulation.MdHB1silencing caused the accumulation of anthocyanin in ‘Granny Smith’ flesh, whereas its overexpression reduced the flesh content of anthocyanin in ‘Ballerina’ (red-fleshed apple). Moreover, flowers of transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum‘NC89’) overexpressingMdHB1showed a remarkable reduction in pigmentation. Transient promoter activation assays and yeast one-hybrid results indicated that MdHB1 indirectly inhibited expression of the anthocyanin biosynthetic genes encoding dihydroflavonol-4-reductase (DFR) and UDP-glucose:flavonoid 3-O-glycosyltransferase (UFGT). Yeast two-hybrid and bimolecular fluorescence complementation determined that MdHB1 acted as a homodimer and could interact with MYB, bHLH, and WD40 in the cytoplasm, consistent with its cytoplasmic localization by green fluorescent protein fluorescence observations. Together, these results suggest that MdHB1 constrains MdMYB10, MdbHLH3, and MdTTG1 to the cytoplasm, and then represses the transcription ofMdDFRandMdUFGTindirectly. WhenMdHB1is silenced, these TFs are released to activate the expression ofMdDFRandMdUFGTand also anthocyanin biosynthesis, resulting in red flesh in ‘Granny Smith’.

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