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Sci Rep. 2013;3:1970. doi: 10.1038/srep01970.

Genetic engineering of yellow betalain pigments beyond the species barrier.

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Iwate Biotechnology Research Center, 22-174-4 Narita, Kitakami, Iwate 024-0003, Japan.


Betalains are one of the major plant pigment groups found in some higher plants and higher fungi. They are not produced naturally in any plant species outside of the order Caryophyllales, nor are they produced by anthocyanin-accumulating Caryophyllales. Here, we attempted to reconstruct the betalain biosynthetic pathway as a self-contained system in an anthocyanin-producing plant species. The combined expressions of a tyrosinase gene from shiitake mushroom and a DOPA 4,5-dioxygenase gene from the four-o'clock plant resulted in successful betalain production in cultured cells of tobacco BY2 and Arabidopsis T87. Transgenic tobacco BY2 cells were bright yellow because of the accumulation of betaxanthins. LC-TOF-MS analyses showed that proline-betaxanthin (Pro-Bx) accumulated as the major betaxanthin in these transgenic BY2 cells. Transgenic Arabidopsis T87 cells also produced betaxanthins, but produced lower levels than transgenic BY2 cells. These results illustrate the success of a novel genetic engineering strategy for betalain biosynthesis.

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