Regulation of gene action in Petunia hybrida: Unstable alleles of a gene for flower colour

Theor Appl Genet. 1978 Jul;53(4):157-67. doi: 10.1007/BF00273576.


In a progeny of a selfed individual of the dark red-flowered cultivar 'Roter Vogel' some white-flowered plants appeared as the result of a mutation of the genetic factor Anl involved in anthocyanin synthesis. The white flowers of these plants had red spots owing to back-mutations in the dermal cells of the young corolla.Owing to a striking unstability of the new allele of Anl, a number of mutants originated which differ mutually in the frequency of reversion, which expressed itself in the very substantial differences in the spot density of the limb of the corolla. Between a mean number of less than one spot per cm(2) of the limb and a mean number of over 10.000 spots/cm(2), a series of transitions was found.The reversions did not remain restricted to the young epidermis but also occurred in sporogenous tissues. This resulted in the appearance of selfcoloured red descendants of plants with red-spotted white flowers. There is a positive correlation between the spot density of the parent plants and the percentage of plants with completely red corollas.The red spots on the corolla usually have the same colour as the wild type ('Roter Vogel'), but occasionally mutants occur with paler spots, the colour varying from a very pale pink to a red nearly as deep as in the wild type. The selfcoloured descendants of such mutants also show this colour variation from pale pink to red.On the grounds of these observations a theory was formulated which postulates that the Anl locus consists of a structural gene responsible for an enzyme active during anthocyanin synthesis and a regulatory element built up from intermediate repetitive DNA. This regulatory element in turn is built up of two components, one of which, the 'mutator', decides the activation of the structural gene while the other, the 'expressor', modifies the rate of activation. The mutations must be considered representative of larger or smaller deletions within one or both of these components. Reversions are the result of the restoration of the deletions by means of an amplification of the repetitive DNA in dividing cells of the developing flower buds.