Alteration of flower color in Iris germanica L. `Fire Bride' through ectopic expression of phytoene synthase gene (crtB) from Pantoea agglomerans
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Genetic modulation of the carotenogenesis in I. germanica `Fire Bride' by ectopic expression of a crtB gene causes several flower parts to develop novel orange and pink colors. Flower color in tall bearded irises (Iris germanica L.) is determined by two distinct biochemical pathways; the carotenoid pathway, which imparts yellow, orange and pink hues and the anthocyanin pathway, which produces blue, violet and maroon flowers. Red-flowered I. germanica do not exist in nature and conventional breeding methods have thus far failed to produce them. With a goal of developing iris cultivars with red flowers, we transformed a pink iris I. germanica, `Fire Bride', with a bacterial phytoene synthase gene (crtB) from Pantoea agglomerans under the control of the promoter region of a gene for capsanthin-capsorubin synthase from Lilium lancifolium (Llccs). This approach aimed to increase the flux of metabolites into the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway and lead to elevated levels of lycopene and darker pink or red flowers. Iris callus tissue ectopically expressing the crtB gene exhibited a color change from yellow to pink-orange and red, due to accumulation of lycopene. Transgenic iris plants, regenerated from the crtB-transgenic calli, showed prominent color changes in the ovaries (green to orange), flower stalk (green to orange), and anthers (white to pink), while the standards and falls showed no significant differences in color when compared to control plants. HPLC and UHPLC analysis confirmed that the color changes were primarily due to the accumulation of lycopene. In this study, we showed that ectopic expression of a crtB can be used to successfully alter the color of certain flower parts in I. germanica `Fire Bride' and produce new flower traits.