Red colouration in apple fruit is due to the activity of the MYB transcription factor, MdMYB10

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Abstract

Summary

Anthocyanin concentration is an important determinant of the colour of many fruits. In apple (Malus × domestica), centuries of breeding have produced numerous varieties in which levels of anthocyanin pigment vary widely and change in response to environmental and developmental stimuli. The apple fruit cortex is usually colourless, although germplasm does exist where the cortex is highly pigmented due to the accumulation of either anthocyanins or carotenoids. From studies in a diverse array of plant species, it is apparent that anthocyanin biosynthesis is controlled at the level of transcription. Here we report the transcript levels of the anthocyanin biosynthetic genes in a red-fleshed apple compared with a white-fleshed cultivar. We also describe an apple MYB transcription factor, MdMYB10, that is similar in sequence to known anthocyanin regulators in other species. We further show that this transcription factor can induce anthocyanin accumulation in both heterologous and homologous systems, generating pigmented patches in transient assays in tobacco leaves and highly pigmented apple plants following stable transformation with constitutively expressed MdMYB10. Efficient induction of anthocyanin biosynthesis in transient assays by MdMYB10 was dependent on the co-expression of two distinct bHLH proteins from apple, MdbHLH3 and MdbHLH33. The strong correlation between the expression of MdMYB10 and apple anthocyanin levels during fruit development suggests that this transcription factor is responsible for controlling anthocyanin biosynthesis in apple fruit; in the red-fleshed cultivar and in the skin of other varieties, there is an induction of MdMYB10 expression concurrent with colour formation during development. Characterization of MdMYB10 has implications for the development of new varieties through classical breeding or a biotechnological approach.

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