, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 33-41

Modification of flower color and fragrance by antisense suppression of the flavanone 3-hydroxylase gene

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Anthocyanins are the major pigments contributing to carnation flowercoloration. Most carnation varieties are sterile and hence molecular breedingis an attractive approach to creating novel colors in this commercially importantcrop. Characterization of anthocyanins in the flowers of the modern carnationcv. Eilat revealed that only the orange pelargonidin accumulates, due to a lackof both flavonoid 3′,5′-hydroxylase and flavonoid3′-hydroxylase activities. To modify flower color in cv. Eilat, we usedantisense suppression to block the expression of a gene encoding flavanone3-hydroxylase, a key step in the anthocyanin pathway. The transgenic plantsexhibited flower color modifications ranging from attenuation to complete lossof their original orange/reddish color. In the latter, only traces ofpelargonidin were detected. Dramatic suppression of flavanone 3-hydroxylaselevel/activity in these transgenes was confirmed by northern blot, RT-PCR andenzymatic assays. The new phenotype has been stable for over 4 years ofvegetative propagation. Moreover, transgenic plants with severe colormodification were more fragrant than control plants. GC-MS headspace analysesrevealed that transgenic anti-f3h flowers emit higherlevels of methyl benzoate. The possible interrelation between pathways leadingto anthocyanin and fragrance production is discussed.