Flavonoids are the most common antioxidant compounds produced in plants. In this study, two wild types and two independent mutants of Medicago truncatula with altered anthocyanin content in leaves were characterized at the phenotype, metabolite profile, gene structure and transcript levels. Flavonoid profiles showed conserved levels of dihydroflavonols, leucoanthocyanidins and flavonols, while anthocyanidin, anthocyanin and isoflavone levels were lower in the mutants (up to 90% less) compared with the wild types. Genes encoding key enzymes of the anthocyanin pathway and transcriptional factors were analyzed by RT-PCR. Genes involved in the later steps of the anthocyanin pathway (dihydrokaempferol reductase 2, UDP-glucose:anthocyanin 3-O-glucosyltransferase and glutathione S-transferase) were found under-expressed in both mutants. Dihydrokaempferol reductase 1 was downregulated two-fold in the anthocyanin-less mutant while the UDP-glucose:anthocyanin 5-O-glucosyltransferase was strongly repressed only in the mutant with low pigmentation, suggesting a different regulation in the two genotypes. The common feature was that the first enzymes of the flavonoid biosynthesis pathway were not altered in rate of expression. A very high reduction in transcript accumulation was also found for two homologous R2R3 MYB genes, namely MtMYBA and AN2, suggesting that these genes have a role in anthocyanin accumulation in leaves. More evidence was found on analyzing their nucleotide sequence: several SNPs, insertions and deletions in the coding and non-coding regions of both MYB genes were found between mutants and wild types that could influence anthocyanin biosynthesis. Moreover, a subfamily of eight MYB genes with a high homology to MtMYBA was discovered in tandem on chromosome 5 of M. truncatula.
Keywords: 3GT; 5GT; ABC; AN2; ANS; ATP binding cassette transporter; Anthocyanins; Barrel medic; CHI; CHS; DFR; F3H; F3′-5′H; F3′H; GST; LAP; MATE; MYB; Medicago truncatula; MtMYBA; PAP; Production of Anthocyanin Pigment; UDP glucosyltransferase; UDP-glucose:anthocyanin 3-O-glucosyltransferase; UDP-glucose:anthocyanin 5-O-glucosyltransferase; UGT; UPLC/Q-ToF; anthocyanidin synthase; anthocyanin 2; chalcone isomerase; chalcone synthase; dihydrokaempferol 4-reductase; flavanone 3-hydroxylase; flavonoid 3′-5′-hydroxylase; flavonoid 3′-hydroxylase; glutathione S-transferase; legume anthocyanin production; multidrug and toxic ions extrusion-like antiporters; myeloblastosis; ultra performance liquid chromatography quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
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