The beet R locus encodes a new cytochrome P450 required for red betalain production

Nat Genet. 2012 Jun 3;44(7):816-20. doi: 10.1038/ng.2297.


Anthocyanins are red and violet pigments that color flowers, fruits and epidermal tissues in virtually all flowering plants. A single order, Caryophyllales, contains families in which an unrelated family of pigments, the betalains, color tissues normally pigmented by anthocyanins. Here we show that CYP76AD1 encoding a novel cytochrome P450 is required to produce the red betacyanin pigments in beets. Gene silencing of CYP76AD1 results in loss of red pigment and production of only yellow betaxanthin pigment. Yellow betalain mutants are complemented by transgenic expression of CYP76AD1, and an insertion in CYP76AD1 maps to the R locus that is responsible for yellow versus red pigmentation. Finally, expression of CYP76AD1 in yeast verifies its position in the betalain biosynthetic pathway. Thus, this cytochrome P450 performs the biosynthetic step that provides the cyclo-DOPA moiety of all red betacyanins. This discovery will contribute to our ability to engineer this simple, nutritionally valuable pathway into heterologous species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Anthocyanins / genetics*
  • Anthocyanins / metabolism
  • Beta vulgaris / enzymology
  • Beta vulgaris / genetics*
  • Beta vulgaris / metabolism
  • Betalains / metabolism*
  • Color
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / genetics*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism
  • Flowers / genetics
  • Flowers / metabolism
  • Genes, Plant*
  • Genetic Loci*
  • Isoenzymes
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pigments, Biological / genetics*
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Yeasts / genetics


  • Anthocyanins
  • Isoenzymes
  • Pigments, Biological
  • Plant Proteins
  • Betalains
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System

Associated data

  • GENBANK/HQ656023
  • GENBANK/HQ656024
  • GENBANK/HQ656025
  • GENBANK/HQ656026
  • GENBANK/JQ085589
  • GENBANK/JQ085590