Transcription factor mediated control of anthocyanin biosynthesis in vegetative tissues

Outchkourov, N.S.; Karlova, R.B.; Hölscher, Matthijs; Schrama, Xandra; Blilou, I.; Jongedijk, E.J.; Diez Simon, C.; Dijk, A.D.J. van; Bosch, H.J.; Hall, R.D.; Beekwilder, M.J.


Plants accumulate secondary metabolites to adapt to environmental conditions. These compounds, here exemplified by the purple-colored anthocyanins, are accumulated upon high temperatures, UV-light, drought, and nutrient deficiencies, and may contribute to tolerance to these stresses. Producing compounds is often part of a more broad response of the plant to changes in the environment. Here we investigate how a transcription-factor-mediated program for controlling anthocyanin biosynthesis also has effects on formation of specialized cell structures and changes in the plant root architecture. A systems biology approach was developed in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) for coordinated induction of biosynthesis of anthocyanins, in a tissue- and development-independent manner. A transcription factor couple from Antirrhinum that is known to control anthocyanin biosynthesis was introduced in tomato under control of a dexamethasone-inducible promoter. By application of dexamethasone, anthocyanin formation was induced within 24 h in vegetative tissues and in undifferentiated cells. Profiles of metabolites and gene expression were analyzed in several tomato tissues. Changes in concentration of anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds were observed in all tested tissues, accompanied by induction of the biosynthetic pathways leading from Glc to anthocyanins. A number of pathways that are not known to be involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis were observed to be regulated. Anthocyanin-producing plants displayed profound physiological and architectural changes, depending on the tissue, including root branching, root epithelial cell morphology, seed germination, and leaf conductance. The inducible anthocyanin-production system reveals a range of phenomena that accompanies anthocyanin biosynthesis in tomato, including adaptions of the plants architecture and physiology.