Betalains, comprising violet betacyanins and yellow betaxanthins, are pigments found in plants belonging to the order Caryophyllales. In this study, we induced the accumulation of betalains in ornamental lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) by genetic engineering. Three betalain biosynthetic genes encoding CYP76AD1, dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) 4,5-dioxygenase (DOD), and cyclo-DOPA 5-O-glucosyltransferase (5GT) were expressed under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) 35S promoter in lisianthus, in which anthocyanin pigments are responsible for the pink flower color. During the selection process on hygromycin-containing media, some shoots with red leaves were obtained. However, most red-colored shoots were suppressed root induction and incapable of further growth. Only clone #1 successfully acclimatized and bloomed, producing pinkish-red flowers, with a slightly greater intensity of red color than that in wild-type flowers. T1 plants derived from clone #1 segregated into five typical flower color phenotypes: wine red, bright pink, pale pink, pale yellow, and salmon pink. Among these, line #1-1 showed high expression levels of all three transgenes and exhibited a novel wine-red flower color. In the flower petals of line #1-1, abundant betacyanins and low-level betaxanthins were coexistent with anthocyanins. In other lines, differences in the relative accumulation of betalain and anthocyanin pigments resulted in flower color variations, as described above. Thus, this study is the first to successfully produce novel flower color varieties in ornamental plants by controlling betalain accumulation through genetic engineering.
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